Written and Illustrated by Jenny Lee Fowler
You know that moment—after the hygge has out-worn its welcome, when the glow of the candles has faded from our dark dinner/light suppers, and I’ve already cut two armloads of forsythia to force in a vase on the kitchen table and streamed through a dozen too many family movies. This is when I’m on the hunt for more ways to beat the winter doldrums and match my family’s bustle of energy.
When he was little, my son used to do headstands on the couch and tumble about while I read chapter after chapter from our brimming stacks of library books. Now, he often paces the house or goes walking in the woods with a podcast streaming in one ear.
Still, a home is a dynamic place if you let it be. I’ve always kept an eye open for random exercise equipment—a stepper, stationary bike or yoga ball—to rotate through during the coldest months. Over the years, we’ve picked up pull-up bars that balanced on the door frame, punching bags that hung from the ceiling and wobble boards that could slide under the couch. One year we even found a full-size portable air-hockey table at a yard sale. We’d pull it out occasionally and set it up on sawhorses in the middle of the living room for festive bouts.
Kids are natural place-makers and get satisfaction from controlling their environment through fort-building. We line ours with soft bedding so we can nestle in to listen to audiobooks, sprawl out with action figures on a fresh landscape or have a living-room sleepover. A pretend market sprang up in a corner of the living room, and we spent hours negotiating baskets of goods for imaginary feasts.
And we are transported by art. We play exquisite corpse—a surrealist drawing game—or shape a wonderland of creatures from wool roving, beeswax or modeling clay. Free-range and varied craft materials can incite a feeling of exploration when you’re hemmed in.
My son’s antidote for cabin fever is “leaving the house, daydreaming about leaving the house and watching movies where you can imagine leaving the house.” Sometimes we leapfrog to friends’ houses and spend long days together. Sometimes we pick up a gym membership so we can swim and run around, or we hit a museum for a few hours. We’ve even gone to the mall just to walk somewhere other than the shoveled trenches around our yard.
But sometimes we leave our shelter behind entirely. We welcome the thaws to hike quiet trails. We converge at the edge of a friend’s shallow pond with ice skates to warm ourselves next to a bonfire and drink cocoa. We throw on our snowsuits, grab the sleds and glide down the meadow hills. Eventually we will have to return home. But when I hear my daughter singing in the snowbank, I know it isn’t time to come back in yet. █