Ayre-Famil-Phot-edit-800pxIt is a little known fact that it snows in Montreal, and sometimes a great deal. (It shares a latitude similar to Moscow’s.) The summer can be more humid than New York’s—if such a thing is possible. But the winter was always long, and cold. I knew it had arrived in earnest when the bottles the milkman left outside the back door cracked, and the yellow cream, flecked with shards of glass, rose to the top. Those were the mornings my mother would cocoon me in a Michelin Man-sized snow suit with red suspenders and a down hood, and an old woolen toque that itched as if the sheep were still attached. This itch would be impossible to scratch; my mittens were the size of oven gloves. As a finishing touch she would mummify me with a scarf around the hood, including my mouth. Said scarf would then funnel the in and out of every breath directly into my auditory canals. It was like living in a wind tunnel. My breath would also turn the inside of the scarf into icicles that scraped against my chin and cheeks.

Though I secretly loved that cold hard oral crust. That ice might be my last source of water, should I lose my way within the barren wilderness of suburban Montreal.

“You can make it, Lawrence!” I’d exhort myself. “Stick to the sidewalks!”, the sand-sprayed sidewalks that lead to Carlyle Elementary, where it took so long to remove my multiple layers by the time I got my boots off it was time to trek home again. ‘Lawrence’  was Lawrence of Arabia, my earliest idol. It was easy to envision the snow-ploughed mountains on every corner as sub-Saharan dunes, and equally easy to imagine I was Lawrence of Antarctica, the mobile pedestrian human igloo.