BY ED HUNGNESS, Local columnist
---- — The holidays are exciting times for all of us — especially children. On vacation from the normal school routine, they tear around the house laughing, giggling and having fun. As any parent knows, eventually they become overstimulated and sibling squabbles begin to flare. After a few weeks of holiday hysteria, parents find themselves looking forward to the resumption of school.
When our children were young but beyond the age of taking naps, they still needed a break from the excitement. Since naps "were for babies," we called it quiet hour and it usually took place after lunch.
Quiet hour was just that. The children weren't required to sleep, but were restricted to their bedrooms for an hour of rest. They could read a book, quietly play with their toys or snuggle up with a teddy bear. When quiet hour was over, they resumed activities of their choice.
While young, this was their daily routine while on summer vacation and during the holidays. It worked well and I sometimes wish that I was required to take similar breaks. Alas, I always feel an urge to be doing something, whether productive or not.
Prior to the holidays and during the festivities, we were very busy and constantly on the go. Shopping for gifts, preparing holiday foods, wrapping presents, addressing Christmas cards and traveling are enough to wear out even the most driven personalities.
With Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's but a pleasant memory, we enter the time of the year I refer to as the quiet hours. It is during this post-holiday winter season that friends and relatives question our selection of northern Michigan as a retirement location. Even our retired neighbors, who are currently soaking up the warm sunshine of the South, ask us why we stay.
The obvious answer is that we just like it here. We enjoy winter and all that Mother Nature has to throw at us. I relate the feeling to the sense of accomplishment that early settlers must have felt while surviving harsh winters in the North Country.
Some days, the American flag stands straight out at the top of our flagpole in the powerful north wind. Snow blows sideways, creating drifts resembling miniature versions of the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear. The thermometer dips to below zero and sharp wind penetrates even the warmest coat.
Thankfully, we don't need to travel when the roads are snow and ice covered. We just stay home. I do empathize with working folks who are required to travel daily to and from their jobs. Even though we're retired, we remember those days well.
On stay-at-home days, I sometimes retrieve the cast iron Dutch oven from the pantry and select a favorite recipe to prepare. We enjoy smelling the culinary creation simmering throughout the day and look forward to a warm comfort-food supper.
The mouth-watering aromas of a hearty beef stew drift from the kitchen, permeating every nook of the cottage. It may be cold, snowy and blowing outside, but it's warm and cozy dining near the fireplace.
What an excellent way enjoy winter's quiet hours.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633