hidden winter


I hope I always remember this bonkers winter. Walking everywhere with my girls, the stroller completely unable to deal with the curbs, the car buried, the sidewalks nearly impassable. Walking somewhere–usually the library–and then going back outside to walk home, never surprised to see more tufted cold cotton falling from the sky. It was always the loveliest white.

It was our sleeping bear winter. We didn’t go out a lot. I mean, we went out every day, but we didn’t go anywhere or do interesting things. I didn’t really notice. The girls play together now. They danced to the nutcracker suite almost every day. They didn’t melt down before meals. I didn’t have panic attacks if Joe shows up an hour late.

I was always thinking, “one year ago this would have killed me.” I didn’t even join the gym! Goodness what a difference not to have a baby.


Our energy bill was more expensive this year. We don’t pay for our heat because of the way our building is structured, so we just pay the electric bill for our apartment. Bills were up for all of Massachusetts because they’ve shut down some coal plants and are replacing the power source with natural gas. Seeing this relatively meager bill pop up in my inbox, I would imagine for a moment what we’d done with that energy that we’d siphoned for ourselves. So many nights with the oven at 400, roasting one or two chicken breasts for a simple dinner paired with rice. So many nights of turning on all the lights in the apartment so the girls would feel comfortable using all the rooms, to make me less stir-crazy at 5pm.


This winter Joan learned to say coco for hot chocolate, mine, sorry, go, why?, and snow.

Snow sounds a lot like no from her mouth, but after she emphatically repeated it 30 times, we would deduce that she wanted a bowlful of snow from outside our window. It wasn’t until mid-March that the snow blocking most of our kitchen and bedroom windows finally melted away. I was so happy to have the light back, but the girls miss their favorite accessible snack.


All winter Joan liked to play at the sink. She would fill up glasses for each of us and bring them to us. They would spill on the way down from the sink, on the way down from the stool, on the way to us, and right before she’d handed them to us. They would arrive smeared on the edges with whatever else happened to be in the sink, with bits of food floating in them. Her eyes glowed with satisfaction when we would thank her.


There were people in the same city as me who had a different winter. They had to use their car every day. They only got paid if they made it to work. They counted on a bus that was abruptly cut from the schedule, or was so abbreviated that they had to wait in line to get on it. Their electric bill was inconceivably high, pounds of ice pulled on the edges of their roof and threatened their water lines.

I confess that most of the winter I didn’t think about these folks; how it was going for anyone besides myself. I thought about how fresh the white looked every time snow fell. I muttered a prayer over our car every time I walked past a neighboring car that’d been rilled by a reckless snowplow. I finally read the op-ed Boston’s Winter from Hell with wide eyes. I didn’t change anything after I read it, I guess I just went about more aware of what another storm really meant for the city.


Every season we finish here I always have a few more things I wish we’d managed. I didn’t take the girls ice skating. We didn’t watch the Christmas lights turn on on the Common. We went Colorado skiing, but not east coast skiing. Because the car was buried, we didn’t go to the MFA at all. Next year, I say to myself. This hint of anticipation, a good chance for a round two, is how I know I want to stay.


  • Susanne

    Oh my goodness, so much snow! We had a mild winter in Sweden but all of a sudden a few days ago, after we’d seen some signs of spring, it started snowing mad. NOT fun.

  • Deanna

    Thank you for sharing these little moments. Those are always the best and it’s such a gift to have them written down to enjoy for years to come. I am so in love with your photography. You may have blogged about this before..but what kind of camera do you use?

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Thanks Deanna! I think what you are liking is the filters, which I put on using the VSCO app on my iPhone. These are mostly all iPhone photos. The app is free but then you have to spend around $6 on their filters. It takes some playing around with to get used to the app but it’s very rewarding.

  • Jessica Clare

    Rachael, you are truly the most beautiful writer. Not only can you turn a hell of a phrase, ( tufted cold cotton falling from the sky), but you bring a mindfulness to everything you write that makes me take a big, deep breath. Thank you 🙂 Your writing is truly a gift to me. xo

  • Ellen Johnson

    Yup, I’m here with my 9 month old and almost 3 year old and it was tough! We’re also car dependent out in the ‘burbs so we couldn’t walk to fun things, so we hunkered a bunch and went crazy when Daddy’s train was delayed or cancelled and he came home 3 hours late! But then again, it could have been so much worse. We are so blessed. We never lost power or our gutters, our roof didn’t cave in and we haven’t had any leaking in the basement yet. My husband could work at home when it was really bad. All in all, I can’t complain too much. I think it would have been a hard winter regardless with the age of my kiddos.

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