Writer’s Block: Blizzard of boots, scarves and mittens

“Hey, look! It’s snowing outside! Let’s go sledding!”

Sue Austreng
Sue Austreng

And so the bundling of my three small children begins as I direct the kids to the stairway and tell them to go upstairs and put on long johns and turtlenecks on a snowy winter’s day some 23 years ago.

Soon they descend the stairs, but things are not quite as they should be: four-year-old Charlie’s turtleneck is on backwards and his little brother Tully’s is on upside down. Hannah – six-year-old big sis to both of them – gets Tully turned around (his turtleneck, not his torso) as Charlie puts two legs in one leg of his snowpants and stands up.

“Yikes!” he exclaims wide-eyed as he leans forward to grab his jacket, loses his balance and tumbles to the floor.

He rolls over, making sure his nose is still where he left it, pulls one leg out of his snowpants and slides it into the proper pant leg.

Hannah gets Tully all straightened out and pulls on her own snowpants and jacket. Meanwhile, I slide Tully into his snowpants, fasten the shoulder straps and zip the zipper.

This last action he finds fascinating and insists on zipping and unzipping the zipper repeatedly, going faster and faster with each zip until he catches his chin in its metal teeth.

And so, I apply a wet washcloth, wipe away his tears and kiss his owie to make it better.

By now, Charlie has his snowpants, jacket, hat and scarf on, and he’s struggling to put on his boots. With so much downy fluff packed around his pint-sized body, he’s finding it difficult to reach his feet.

He plops down on the floor, draws his knees up as far as he can, then reaches with great stretch and effort, along with impressive sound effects (“Oomph!” “Aargh!”) to maneuver his foot into the boot. After several failed attempts, he decides to try another approach.

He rolls onto his back, feet in the air and boot in hand. Following each attempt to snag foot in boot, he rocks back and forth, back and forth. But his foot remains bootless.

I figure I’d give him a hand. I stand the boots side by side on the floor, then lift up Charlie, his stockinged feet hovering just above the waiting boots, then lower him carefully until each foot is in the proper boot. (It was easier to put Charlie in the boots than to put the boots on Charlie.)

By this time – perspiring in her downy, Thinsulated winter clothing – Hannah has undressed, then dressed, then undressed again and Tully has made a truly heroic effort with his jacket, putting his arms correctly in the sleeves, but finishing with the hood in front and the zipper in back.

While Tully wrestles with his backward jacket I turn to help Charlie pull on his mittens and tie his scarf. But Charlie’s not there.

“He hadda go potty,” big sister Hannah tells me matter-of-factly.

Sure enough, a trail of snowpants, jacket, scarf, hat, mittens and boots lead to the bathroom door where Charlie is doing his business.

Meanwhile, Tully has triumphed over his jacket and Hannah is completely dressed once again. I plop Tully’s hat on his head, tie a scarf around his neck and help his thumbs find their places in the mittens as Charlie comes running into the kitchen.

Quickly, quickly – before Tully can pull off his hat, before Hannah decides she doesn’t want to go sledding after all, before anyone gets thirsty or has an itch deep down inside his snowpants – I stuff Charlie into his snowpants, wrap his jacket around him, pull a hat on his head, tie a scarf around his neck, drop him into his boots, pull on his mittens and herd them all toward the back door.

Hannah rushes out into the new fallen snow and Charlie scampers along behind her. But Tully stops abruptly at the threshold as if frozen to the ground.

He looks down at his feet, wrinkles his brow and turns to me. “‘oot! ‘oot!”

Good grief! In the blizzard of boots, scarves and mittens, I’d forgotten to fetch Tully a pair of boots.

And so, the snowy winter day’s rendition of bundling up reaches repeated redundancy .“Hey, look! It’s snowing outside! Let’s go sledding!”