My daughter keeps asking me to go on “our winter walk.” What she really wants to do is recapture a moment we experienced last year. It’s now etched in her memory. And she wants to replicate it.
It was like this: the snow had fallen gently all day, covering the trees, the houses, the sidewalks. The snowplows hadn’t passed through yet, so the side streets like the one we live on were still blanketed. Cars were moving slowly – and so were people.
It was quiet and white and beautiful.
The two of us decided to go for a walk. We chased each other, throwing snowballs. We were laughing and carefree, mother and daughter both acting like kids. We ran down our familiar street – doing something we rarely had the chance to do. Our neighbourhood was transformed and so were we.
My husband had been late getting home, and as we were throwing snowballs, he came around the corner in the car. We laughed and waved and threw snow at him. He wasn’t expecting to see us out on the street on this snowy night, running and laughing. He waved and stopped and said “See you at home” before he trundled up the street carving a path with the tires. Heading to warmth and light and a hot cup of tea.
For him, too, it was one of those moments where everything that’s familiar is somehow transformed. The kind of moment where you unexpectedly see someone you know out of context – you laugh with the excitement of seeing them with fresh eyes.
So tonight my daughter and I went on our winter walk. There had been snow on the ground … but it was mostly melted thanks to the 5C weather. It was wildly windy – the sound of it ripped through the tall pine trees in the neighbourhood.
It was loud and eerie and dark.
“Why is nobody out, Mommy?” my daughter asked. It was only about 7.00, but the street looked deserted.
Branches and garbage cans banged in the wind. A spent Christmas tree put by the curb for pick-up threatened to blow on to the street.
“I want to go home,” she whined.
“But this is still fun, isn’t it?” I asked. “It’s still our winter walk. It’s just different weather.”
“Feel the wind,” I yelled as it whipped my hair into my face. I laughed and pretended I couldn’t see.
It wasn’t good enough. She was too frightened by the wind. So we came home.
“Are you going to remember this walk?” I asked. She wouldn’t answer. I felt sad for her disappointment. She had wanted to feel the happiness of that night again. She assumed she’d feel it if we simply went out for a winter walk.
We’ll have more winter walks and create more memories. And maybe one day she’ll understand that you can’t force a moment to be special – it’s created spontaneously, with all the elements combining together in a pure moment of joy that you’ll never be able to recreate again.
And those are the moments you hang on to.
The New York Times has just published an article on the difference between joy and pleasure – much more philosophical and deconstructionist than my effort here.