On March 13, 2024

Mountain Meditation: Our ice skating rink and potbelly stove

Building a Killington dream lodge, part 5

Mom and I perfected the art of dressing in bed when it was cold, which was quite often in Vermont’s Green Mountains. We giggled as we wiggled out of and into our clothing. It wasn’t easy, especially for me, inside my narrow mummy sleeping bag. I felt like a mini female Houdini. But it was worthwhile staying warm as we dressed, and fun beginning and ending days with laughter.

When the weather turned bitter cold, water froze on our basement floor, sometimes as much as half an inch thick. Elegant icicles hung from the ceiling as our winter wonderland glittered.

“Let’s wear our ice skates,” I suggested.

“Welcome to the Dye Family Skating Rink!” Mom declared.

Our exhaled words formed breath clouds in the air. At that point, Mom said, “Enough is enough. It’s nuts to be here. I quit. I’m tired of freezing!”

Extreme measures were required. So, Dad bought a second-hand potbelly stove to warm up the basement in cold temperatures. Since it’s Vermont, we burned logs quite often. Dad chopped the wood, which we then piled in the sun. But a tarpaulin was frequently needed for the on-again, off-again rain and snowstorms.

When Dad fired up the potbelly stove, the heat was heavenly and warmed up our room. We held out our hands and turned all around so we could warm up our derrières. I loved to sit with my feet out in front to warm up and dry out my wet socks and shoes.

Slowly the heat thawed the ice on the floor. After a while, we donned rubber boots and waded around our sinking ship. If the potbelly stove burned into the night, the ice continued to defrost and drip. I dreaded waking up with my pillow soaking wet, with damp limp hair at the top of my bed. I was amazed my body stayed toasty in my down sleeping bag, under Hudson Bay woolen blankets.

Mom gave up heading north once the snow and ice arrived. “I’ll return in the spring when it’s warmer.”

She didn’t realize in Vermont, it’s “mud season.” So, sometimes just Dad and I drove up to ski. I was a novice, snowplowing and turning at a snail’s pace, but Dad was patient. He taught me to parallel ski across slopes, but I still used the snowplow to turn and slow down.

One winter weekend, Dad and I drove to Killington to go skiing and stay at a friend’s home. The snow was too deep and the temperature too cold to rough it in our basement shell. We skied all day with hot chocolate breaks to warm up by the roaring ski lodge fire. When we were done, Dad wanted to check on how our basement was holding up. He parked the car on Roaring Brook Road’s edge, then ascended our drive up Mt. Everest. In 6 feet of snow without snowshoes on, it was exhausting and very slow going. Once at the top, to open the door, he had to shovel away mounds of snow. I don’t know all he did when he entered, but most likely, he checked systems and leaks. At last satisfied, he returned to the car.

Dad was gone quite a long time while I waited in our Country Squire. The heat had quickly dissipated and the cold fully took over. My leather ski boots and socks were damp. Ice was still caked on my pants. I sang songs and chewed on Fig Newtons but it didn’t stop my teeth from chattering or my body from shivering. By the time Dad returned, my toes were numb. At our friend’s home, Dad and Ann Wallen ran cold water over my white toes. I didn’t understand why they didn’t use hot, but gradually they turned the temperature up. Cold or warm, my toes hurt a lot as they thawed out from frostbite. Since then, they have remained quite numb. I barely feel when my toenails are cut. But I take it as my badge of bravery for not complaining about that cold waiting. I wonder what my mother must have said when Dad revealed what had transpired…

In spite of each new “challenge of the week,” we cheered when we crossed the Vermont state line and again, when we arrived in Killington (which we still do, to this day).

To be continued….

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Killington and Bradenton, Florida.

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