When I was a child, in the 1950’s and early 60’s, my family lived in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, just south of Lake Erie, in the snow belt. Winters were snowy and bitter cold. My memories are of ice skating, sledding, and digging tunnels in the snow. Snow creaked underfoot from December to March, and piles from shoveled sidewalks towered over the heads of children young and old. Winter nights left a frost canvas on my bedroom window. In the early morning, my mother would squat and balance herself on the hot air floor vent in the kitchen and have her quiet time.
My mother had a mid-length, dark grey winter coat with a cowl neckline and faux fleece lining. This fleece was some mixture of cotton or wool woven and machine-carded to look and feel something like sheared wool. It was nothing like the fleece that NorthFace or L.L. Bean use in their pullovers. The fleece was deep and soft.
I remember how, in church or riding in the car, my mother would open her coat so I could sit on that fleece lining. She would fold that open side of the coat over me. She must have been cold. The plastic bench seats of our station wagon delayed warmth. The church sanctuary must have been drafty with its tall, uninsulated windows and wooden pews. But I was indifferent to my mother’s discomfort. I only knew her warmth and that soft fleece.
That was grace.