Winter Pleasures

How about a winter story?

We live in a part of the country that has early snow and PLENTY of snow!  We are also blessed to live enough distance from the nearest town.  If we need something we can get there easily but we also appreciate the quiet and solitude.  And our family lives in a very nice, nearly new two-story home that Michael (my dear husband) was determined to give it a “rustic” accent when we bought it.  I thought it was important for you to have an idea of where we live before I shared my story.

It was a Saturday this past winter.  The meteorologists warned several days earlier that we were going to get hit with a severe snowstorm.  That had begun on Thursday and continued into early Saturday morning.  With over four feet of snow in many places most of the area was immobilized.  Fortunately we had stocked up on all the essentials before the white stuff started falling.  So it was my husband Michael and I, and our two daughters: Kara who was 13 going on 14, and Sara who was 15 at the time, found ourselves fairly stranded, other than being able to walk to the houses of the people right around us.  But we were enjoying it, and thankfully we never lost electricity or the Internet while we were snowbound.

By Saturday afternoon though we had to get out and breathe in the fresh air, and we all felt like playing in the snow was in order so that we wouldn’t go stir crazy from the cabin fever.  Michael got our sleds out of the storage room and we took to our front yard that slopes down to the road our house is on.  We were having fun for almost an hour when Michael came to me.

“Why don’t you and the girls play some more out here for awhile?  You’re having so much fun with the sleds.  There’s something that I want to do.”  He wouldn’t tell me what it is, except that he said “wait and see” and gave me a wink.  Which normally means that he’s up to something.

Sara suggested that we walk down the road with our sleds a short distance to the home of our neighbors, who have a huge hill in their backyard – more like a field – that they let everyone up and down our road go sledding down during the winter.  When we got there our neighbors were already out, along with a few other people from the neighborhood.  We spent over three hours that afternoon playing in the snow!  I think everyone there must have raced each other on sleds a dozen times, to say nothing of the huge snowball fight and the very funny idea that some of the younger kids had to decorate the snow with food coloring.

We had so much fun that we had no idea how much time had gone by.  By then it was 5:30 and getting to be almost dinner time.  The girls and I picked up our sleds and started the walk back home, very cold and very wet and very tired.

Michael was waiting for us.  He had dinner started, but it was going to be another hour or so before it would be ready.  He helped us out of our thick coats and boots.  Then he told us “I thought you’d be cold from all of that play.  Go check your beds.  Then come down to the living room.”  I couldn’t help but think “What is he up to?”  Kara and Sara went upstairs and I followed them on my wobbly legs.

On each of our beds, Michael had laid out a clean set of winter pajamas (and in my case my favorite sweatsuit) fresh and still warm straight from the dryer!  He had also laid out some clean socks and our robes, almost hot from the dryer.  After being out in the cold all that time, I didn’t mind at all.  I came out and joined the girls who had been waiting in the hallway, and we went downstairs and into the living room.

The first thing that I noticed was the crackling blaze in the fireplace, which had not been used in at least five years because our home is electrically heated.  Then Michael came into the room with a tray containing three mugs: my husband was serving us hot chocolate!  He even made sure that Kara’s had the extra marshmallows that she’s always liked in hers.  As we sat down Sara said that she thought that was a wonderfully sweet thing for her dad to do.

But that wasn’t all that he did for us.  The next thing was so incredibly tender that I get goosebumps thinking about it.  Michael left the room, and he came back with three ceramic basins stacked one inside another, three folded towels in the basin on top, and one hand (I don’t know how he did it all) holding two large pitchers of water.

Michael went to Kara first.  He put a towel on the floor, and then one of the bowls.  He poured the water in.  Michael took his youngest daughter’s feet in his hands and pulled the wool socks from them, and then gingerly placed her feet in the bowl of warm water that he had prepared for her.

Kara moaned a sigh of sweet relief and sat back to relax.  “Ohhhhhhh… Thank you Dad.”  He smiled back at her.

Michael went to Sara next, who seemed reluctant at first.  But she let her father also lower her feet into her basin, and it was quickly obvious that she was enjoying every moment of her father treating her like such a princess.

Finally, Michael came to me with the last bowl.  He poured the still-steaming water into the basin and I felt his loving hands take my chilly feet into them, and then he gently placed them into the comforting bowl.  I closed my eyes and just as Kara and Sara had done, let out a blissful sigh.

“Dad, this feels wonderful!” Sara told him.  I told him Michael it did too.  So there I was, wearing a fresh clean sweatsuit, wrapped in a flannel robe, the fireplace crackling, with my two beautiful daughters, holding mugs of hot chocolate and our feet, aching and weary and cold from playing so long in the snow, soaking in basins of warm water.

And my wonderful husband and their father doing all of this for us.

We sat there basking in the warmth of the fire and Michael turned on our television and started up an episode from one of our DVD sets of Lost (our family’s favorite show, we’ve been watching them in order).  Michael left us there relaxing while he tended to dinner, and he came back every few minutes to see if we needed anything and if we wanted any more hot chocolate.  By the time the show had ended all three of us were warmed up inside and out.  Beginning with Kara, Michael dried our feet and put our socks on, and took the bowls and towels out.  And then he brought us dinner and our family enjoyed a fine Italian meal in the living room, with the nice aroma of burning wood from the fireplace adding to the evening.

Later that night the girls had gone on to bed, still exhausted from all of our playing in the snow.  Michael and I were in our bedroom. “That was so sweet, what you did for the kids and me, especially having us soak our feet,” I told him.

“I saw it in a movie once.  Some mom did it for her kids.  I thought it would be…”

“You really are the most wonderful husband that God could have ever given a woman,” I told him.  “Stay right there.”  He had been laying on the bed, still wearing his clothes from that day.  I went into our walk-in closet and came out wearing a piece of lingerie that I knew he particularly enjoyed seeing me in.

“You treated us so special tonight.  Now it’s your turn to be treated nice.”

Michael looked almost aghast with surprise.  “I didn’t do that so I could have this, honey.  I just wanted to do it because I wanted to let you and the girls know how thankful I am to have you.”

“I know.  That’s why you deserve this.”

Michael wasn’t expecting it at all.  And that’s part of why I love him so much.  He does these things because he is a very loving and devoted husband and father.  If we had not made love that night, he would have still felt like the happiest man on Earth.  I have no doubt of that.

But I made love to him all the same.  And afterward, as we lay cuddling on that cold winter night, with the snow still falling and our beautiful daughters further down the hall in their rooms, I couldn’t help but silently and prayerfully thank God for giving me such a wonderful husband.

We lay with each other for a long time.  Then Michael said that the girls were probably asleep: “The fire is still going.  Want to go enjoy it together?”

We dressed more “modestly”: I put my sweatsuit back on and Michael changed into one of his.  The last embers were still glowing when we came into the living room.  Michael put on another few logs and stoked it, until there was a small flame going again.  We curled up on the couch, my dear husband and I, snug under a quilt.  He was still stroking my hair as I fell asleep in his arms.

We were still asleep on the couch the next morning when the girls found us!  Sara took a picture of Michael and I, snoozing and embracing each other.  But it didn’t embarass or make us ashamed at all.  That picture shows their father holding their mother, protecting her and keeping her warm against the winter cold.  It’s a photograph of real love that, it may have been my daughter’s photo but it was my husband who made it all his own.  And I so pray that someday both of our daughters might know that same kind of love from their own husbands.  A few months later Sara printed and framed that picture and gave it to us for our anniversary.

I wouldn’t take anything for it.  Or for the memories of that wonderful day this past winter when every girl in our home rediscovered what real love from a man, be he a husband or a father, was all about.

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