He is six years old and he has a new hockey stick.
He proudly brandished his new hockey stick around the kitchen the other night when they all came for supper.
The doorbell rang and there they were standing on the step, the parents, looking slightly dishevelled and a little weary, the boys, hungry the way little boys pretty much always are, and Molly the family pet, who is more like a giant teddy bear needing a hug than a dog.
I ushered them all in along with a blast of icy air, feeling happy just because.
Just because one more time I got to wrap my arms around three little boys who are moving steadily, but surely through childhood.
And just because I got to learn about Jacob’s new hockey stick and just because I got to hear the words, “I love you, grandma, do you have any cookies? Can I use your iPad?”
Although the ghosts and goblins of Halloween have not yet invaded our streets and the remnants of Thanksgiving weekend are still lurking in our refrigerators, it is cold outside.
For weeks conversations have been sprinkled with the ominous threat of something that was coming.
“It’s coming. It’s coming. Yeah, it’s going to be a long one; a cold one, it’s coming for sure.”
Well, apparently it is no longer coming.
It is here.
But even though the kaleidoscope of seasons has moved from a blaze of fiery colours to the starkness of black and white and the talk has turned to icy roads and winter tires and sub-zero temperatures, I don’t really care.
I still feel warm enough when I’m holding my grandson on my knee and he is devouring a chocolate covered ice cream cone and I can bury my nose in his hair and smell that little boy smell as he tells me about his new hockey stick.
He is so proud of that stick. Being the youngest of three boys, hand-me-downs are much more the norm for him.
I still feel warm enough when my kids and their kids make their way through masks and hand sanitizers and jobs and school and about a million and one other commitments and end up on my doorstep.
It has been difficult living through COVID. And with winter coming, (excuse me, I guess it is here) it is not going to be any easier.
I’m not even sure how I am going to be able to sneak in and watch any grandson’s hockey games due to the new restrictions. I only know I will try; I will surely try.
I am aware of the rules and regulations surrounding COVID and I recognize the importance of adhering to them.
But I also know how the unrelenting harshness of winter can seep into the holes in a person’s soul and tear it apart, obliterating any rays of hope and joy and laughter.
But, still, we must keep on keeping on.
We must find the laughter somewhere. We must keep the hope of better days ahead alive. We must because we are all in this together.
I am lucky, I know.
I am lucky because one day even as winter began its annual long and most unwelcome visit, a little boy stopped by at my house.
“Hey, grandma,” he said. “I have a new hockey stick. Wanna see.”
Treena Mielke is a central Alberta writer. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.