Winter in Winnipeg / by Deborah Clague

I love winter. I love snowflakes and hot cocoa and the spirit of the season that causes strangers to become friends and friends to become family (even if it only lasts until 11:59pm on December 25). Some of my fondest memories involve growing up in Winnipeg, a true winter city where the citizenry seem to thrive on temperatures below -40 degrees celcius. As a child, there were three things that I always looked forward to: 

• Visiting Santa's Village at Eaton's Department Store: So iconic was this display that it is now permanently featured at the Children's Museum of Winnipeg. Mimicking a turn-of-the-century street with animated fairytale vignettes in every shop window, it was a place that enchanted both young and old alike. I believe I spent more time staring in wonder at Sleeping Beauty than I did asking Santa for bounty. The best part was afterwards when my mother would take me to the bakery on the 4th floor and purchase Italian tri-colour cookies. Best. Dessert. Ever. And so damn hard to find nowadays. 

Coincidentally, it was the Eaton's Santa of 1986 that made me stop believing in the jolly fat man. After failing to deliver me a Puffalump on Christmas, I started to question the myths that society was coaxing me to believe as fact. I never told my parents that I stopped believing. I didn't want to hurt their feelings by admitting I was athiest at the age of six. I also didn't want to stop our seasonal visits to Santa's Village. 

I found this picture online of the display, but it doesn't do it justice. You really had to be a child growing up in Winnipeg in the 80s to truly understand how magical a place this was. 

• Skating and Sledding at St. Vital Park: By my father's account, I was a pretty good skater as a kid. I don't know why I dropped this hobby (the invention of Nintendo, perhaps?) but I do remember how much I enjoyed skating at St. Vital Park with my dad. And I know it meant a lot to him as well because skating was a huge part of his own young adulthood (he was a former hockey player who came thisclose to playing in the NHL). There never seemed to be anyone at this frozen over lake and I often felt as though the winter wonderland it presented belonged solely to me. Gliding under the stars like a whirling dirvish with snowflakes falling on my nose was a pursuit that connected me with Mother Nature in both a tangible and spiritual way. I would never stop believing in her like I did the dude who denied me the Puffalump. 

Also at St. Vital Park was my favorite sled run. It was high and it was looooooonnnnngggg. Over the years I went through a variety of launch vehicles (tobaggan, magic carpet, saucer, sledge), each one left me believing that in the moment I was actually breaking the sound barrier. The icy track also made it's way through a forest. It doesn't sound safe, but I never got hurt while going down it. Key word: "down". One year when I was about five or six-years-old, I slipped and fell flat on my face while walking back up to the launch point. I immediately started wailing and when my dad came to get me up, the white snow was all hue-dyed red with blood. Lots of blood. I spent the remainder of the evening in the ER. In retrospect, it was okay though as we got hot chocolate and a maple dip donut on the way home.

Perhaps this post isn't about winter memories so much as it is about just desserts?