Monday, May 6, 2013

Winter Coats

My son is a behemoth of a boy. He weighed 65 pounds when he started kindergarten back in September; now he tips the scales at just a few ounces under 80.  That kind of growth - 15 pounds in roughly nine months - is difficult for my wife to abide. She wants her baby back, but we won't be seeing him again. Baby boy has left the building. Little man has taken his place.

For my part, I enjoy watching my children grow. Sometimes the process is slow and subtle; so slow and subtle in fact that I hardly recognize it for what it is. Still other times the changes are so enormous that they seem surreal - if not unreal - simply because of the scope of their enormity. These moments sometimes bring a tear to my eye, but more often than not they make me laugh. The things kids do - the things they say ...

One night, after corraling the triplets into the tub for baths, my daughter Emma screamed at her sister, "Get the F out of the Tub!" When I ran into the bathroom - all full of daddy fury - to chastise my daughter for her language, I discovered there was a foam letter "F" floating in the water.

Another evening I walked into the house to find my girls sitting on the couch and singing, "I've got the moves like Jagger, I've got the moves like Jagger" over and over again. While the girls sang, my son - naked as the day he was born - was doing his best imitation of Mick Jagger, shaking his money maker across the expanse of the living room ... in front of an open window.

My children's frequent growth-spurts have forced my wife and I to adopt a semi-seasonal ritual. Most parents likely do the same. As summer turns to autumn, autumn to winter and winter to spring we rummage through closets, dresser drawers, and laundry baskets for the sake of removing from the daily rotation those items of clothing that are just too worn or too small to keep their places in the lineup. Denim jeans, dresses, tee shirts, hoodies, and even socks and underwear are sorted into piles for donation (to either family, friends, or The Salvation Army).

This year, we'll be donating the kids' winter coats. We somehow managed to get two years use out of them, but there's just no way we'll make three. The triplets have sprouted, and the coats that were once so roomy are now nearly too tight to zip. I suppose it's a good thing that the days have grown decidedly warmer; unless the weather gods fancy themselves comedians, we won't be needing parkas and mittens for a while.

And last night - as I folded the coats and put them into a box with other items slated for donation - I had something of an epiphany. I realized that we bug chuckers mark time by the seasons. As removed as we sometimes are from the natural world we cannot escape its cycles; the end of one cycle generally marks the beginning of another. For the next several months, I'll be counting time by hatching mayflies, but in that moment my mind drifted off to steelhead. Packing those coats away - one atop another - I realized that in many ways steelhead fishing is for me a kind of winter coat.

When my corner of the world wraps itself in a swaddling of snow and most anglers go into hibernation, I turn to Lake Ontario and its tributaries. The annual run of winter steelhead insulates me from what would otherwise be a bitter, fallow season. Sometimes I swing streamers or spey flies, but more often I'll dredge the bottom with ridiculously simple and ugly nymphs. Each method pleases me in its way, but ultimately the method does not matter as it is the fish themselves that sustain me.

And now it's time to fold that coat and put it away for the season. I had hoped for one more trip, but  hope is never enough to keep the days from turning. After a long and especially tenacious northeastern winter there is now warmth beneath the clods. Herds of deer and rafters of turkey have moved out of the thickets and into open ground. Trees are budding in pastel greens and yellows, and hendricksons hatch in earnest. Brown and rainbow trout are rising from the miasma to gorge on the first course served at Spring's table.

Still, it pains me to have to box up a season of chasing steelhead and place it on a shelf. I'm sad to see the winter go in much the same way I'm sentimental about my children growing out of their clothes - each box donated or stowed is full of moments we'll never again experience. Squeezed in between the folds of those moments, however, is also a hopeful anticipation of what's to come. As I shelve this most recent winter, I look forward to seasons still before me, and I take some solace in the fact that while I may have to set steelhead aside, I'll never outgrow them.


1 comment:

Justin Carfagnini said...

Beautifully written! This was an absolute pleasure to read. I don't have children, yet, but totally understand.

Get the "F" out of the tub...hahaha