The morning after the season’s first snowfall, as I worked at my computer I could look out the window and see a steady parade of people heading down my street toward Manito Park.
Parents towed toddlers on sleds and teenagers laughed and pushed and punched one another as they trudged to the traditional sledding hill at the edge of the park. I couldn’t help myself. I had to smile. Welcome to winter in the heart of Spokane.
I stopped typing and watched another family as they walked past my window and, not for the first time, I appreciated the direct link to the past this park provides. Each winter, for more than 100 years, the view has been essentially the same. Snow falls and people come out to play.
I moved to Spokane in 1999 and for several years we lived outside of the city, north toward Green Bluff and near the shallow, curving Little Spokane River. But in 2006, when I realized we were spending a big part of each day driving to and from the city, we sold the big house with the big yard and moved into a little cottage around the corner from Duncan Gardens. My surroundings changed from sprawling suburbia to the intimacy of an old neighborhood with a big park next door.
We’d visited Manito Park from time to time, but after the move the 90-acre oasis became more than a place to visit. It became a seasonal marker for my days. In the spring we watch the tender green buds unfurl and dress the gardens. In the heat of summer I walk through the rose garden at the end of the day and the air is sweet with the scent of a million blooms. In the fall, the park glows with golden leaves.
Every day, in every season, people come to the park. But there is a subtle shift in winter. This time of year Manito is a more solitary place. Icy mornings bring out only the most diehard walkers. And night comes too fast.
But after a fresh snowfall, it’s as if the park sends an invitation to a party. Just as it has been since 1903, the sledding hill is crowded with people and laughter fills the air.
Several years ago, after recording my weekly public radio program in the studio upstairs, I stopped by Vintage Rabbit Antiques on Monroe. One of the dealers had a box filled with vintage postcards and I pulled out one that showed a crowd ice skating on the pond at Manito Park. I loved the slice of life captured in the photograph, with men, women and children celebrating the simple pleasure of skimming over a frozen pond, cold air biting at faces, the wind stinging hands and ears.
I bought the postcard, scanned the card and keep it on my computer; a wintery moment frozen in time, linking me to both the past and the present in a place I’ve grown to love.
Note: This column was featured in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Nostalgia Magazine
Cheryl-Anne Millsap blogs about antiques and collectibles at The Spokesman-Review. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org