The other day they closed most of the schools in the area where I live and I was reminded of this piece that I wrote a few years ago(2006) , enjoy…
I started this last winter, why it has taken me so long to finish it, is anyone’s guess including mine. Maybe I was waiting to be stuck somewhere again or maybe because it turned to spring before I could finish it and hey who really wants to remember winter when it has just ended. I just hope that I can finish it before its spring again.
Today I am stuck in Murdo South Dakota home of a large automobile museum a high school a motel or two, some homes of course, several restaurants that cater to tourists and travelers and a truck stop. I stood out in the open a few minutes ago letting the large flakes fall down around me as I let some of my inner child loose. Bending down and scooping up a handful of the white stuff, I pressed it into a ball before tossing it harmlessly in the direction of an open field. I have been stuck here since last night when the road was been shut down about twenty miles or so a head of me.
Who among us can say that they never once went to bed and hoped for a snow day, I don’t think anyone can, I know I did every winter. On Thursday night, you would hope it would snow so that you could start the weekend a day early. On Sunday you would do it so you could have just one more day of your weekend. Don’t forget the night before that math test or maybe it was history or science, heck for all I know maybe it was every one of them.
I can’t say when it was that I learned that there was a smell to snow and I can’t say I can put my finger on it if I tried, but once you learn that smell you never forget it because there is nothing like it. Someone once said it reminded them of the first whiff you get from a freezer that hasn’t been opened in a week or two I can’t say that I agree with that or not.
I remember winters when I was little, the neighborhood kids and I would find any pile of snow and for lack of a better thing to do with it we’d run over to it and throw the neighbors and ourselves of course off the top of it. Our fingers getting numb under the mittens that my grandmother would knit for us, while trying not to be the next one on the ground. All the while, we’d be holding onto our knit hats to keep them from being knocked off by the others running around tossing snowballs at our heads. They would normally be the older kids in the neighborhood, my brother being one of them. I can’t remember why but it would seem that if we were not trying to make our way down the nearby hill we would be congregated to some extent around my house. I’m not sure but I think it had something to do with the really high piles of snow that we’d have in the yard and the proximity to the house. About one-step from the front porch and you’d be at the base of what could only be described as the best king of the mountain hill, for us youngsters anyway. I talked to my mother about this once and she like me could not really remember why it was that the entire neighborhood ended up at our house. But then again, it just could have been the fact that she wouldn’t let us go anywhere else or my brother had gotten us in trouble and we weren’t allowed to leave the yard. I want to believe the first excuse about the piles of snow being the best around but I am more apt to lean to the latter and that my brother had egged me on and we had gotten into trouble as per usual. Anyway, there we all were tossing what would just barely pass as a snowball some years later, sliding down the snow banks in front of our house on our butts. We were much too young at this time to approach “the hill,” without supervision at least, actually I don‘t think that anyone of us thought about that hill at that age. Somewhere there’s a picture of me in my red knit hat, my mittens, snow pants and jacket on one of those piles of snow in our front yard with a little girl that lived down the street from me that was my age.
What is it about a winter snowfall that makes us want to open the curtains light a fire, put on our snow pants and our red hats and mittens and play until our fingers are so cold they hurt? Why do we have to lose our inner child? Why does it always take a snow day to remind us of that child sliding down a snow bank or the hill up the street? Why do I care? Beats me, but it works every time.
I always want to stand in the middle of the parking lot, walkway or wherever I happen to be when the snow is falling down around me, turn my face up to the falling snow and stick my tongue out and try to catch the snowflakes as they fall. I never really do it, but just once, I want to. It’s not that I’m afraid of what the normal people think if I did. I mean I don’t think if it as I a walk across the parking lot in my shorts and tee-shirt with the snow coming down. What makes you think that I would care what they would say about my momentary lapse into childhood? Maybe our inner child needs the connection with our childhood in order to come out. I watched as the locals rode around on their snowmobiles, pulling up to the pumps and tossing in some more gas so they can spend the day riding around and playing in the white stuff. It wasn’t that long ago was it, that we used to sit by the radio or TV and listen for our school name to be read from the list of those that had already been closed. Hoping and crossing your fingers pleading with the on air person to read it begging, the getting on your knees kind of begging even…
I remember spending hours waiting for them to call off school to make that one announcement that meant we could trade our school clothes for our play clothes and wrap ourselves in layer upon layer of warm clothes, toss on a couple pair of mittens and we were off out the door to the barn and our sleds. Okay, maybe it wasn’t hours but it sure seemed like it when each time they read the list it would get longer and you never realize how far down the alphabet W is until you are waiting for someone to list off the rest of the schools and yours was always the last one in the area. Off to Carneys hill we’d go with our sleds, gathering as many of the neighbors as we could along the way, I think some days we must have had every kid on the street on that hill all at the same time. Carneys hill is just before and across the street from what was, when I was a kid anyway, one of the school district’s elementary schools. It was a tall terraced hill and every fall the family that owned it would take out a couple sections of the barbed wire fence that was at the bottom so that when the snow came they could and I guess we could, use the hill for sledding and snowmobile riding. I have to tell you this is the ultimate sledding hill. It has what you might call a bunny slope, an intermediate slope and an expert slope. The only problem was there really wasn‘t much room at the bottom of the hill before it emptied out on to the street. Actually, you might call the slopes the big chicken slope, the okay maybe we’re not chicken slope and what the hell were we thinking slope. It was easy to stop from the first run, the second was possible if you turned away at the bottom, but from the top, you had start turning away before you reached the bottom and if you waited too long you usually had to turn really fast and fall off your sled. There were the odd time or two or twenty that there was no way we could stop in time and once in a while we would end up in the street and if we were lucky, and we usually were, there wasn’t a car coming. I was one of those that turned my sled and would fall off it before I could run out into the street. I do remember once when, for whatever reason I stayed on my sled hit the street and turned down it toward our house. I don’t think I will ever forget it especially when as I hit the street I looked up and saw a car coming up the street I did manage to turn off the street in time and it missed me and I missed it but I think my brother was more than a bit nervous, well maybe he was hoping. I remember him yelling at me then laughing about it, I guess there was a little concern, maybe, if only just a little. There were however, many occasions that sleds would go shooting out across the street without its rider. Somewhere along the way, we got a toboggan, the fun with all your friends all at once kind of sled. The best thing about it was that you weren’t the only one that had to schlep it up the hill you got to share the burden especially when at least once we’d have to lose our minds and go to the top. We were a bit older by then and knew just what we were doing, well maybe not, although we did have more experience by then.
We would stay on that hill for as long as we could. Going home only to go to the bathroom, change our mittens then run back to that hill and slide until there just weren’t enough of us left to have any fun. I am sure there were some indoor things that we did too, but I don’t remember what they were. We’d go to that hill every day that we didn’t have school. Weekends, snow days, if it snowed the night before or during the day we could barely contain ourselves from wanting to be the first in the town to ride that fresh powder. As I look back at it, I would have to say that it was like wanting to be the first skier on the mountain and then look back at your fresh tracks in the snow.
So, to you my friends and family, this winter as you are looking out the windshield of your car cursing at the falling snow or the driver in front of you or both remember those days. All those snowy mornings that you’d sit next to the radio or in front of the TV, begging and pleading with the announcer to say that your school would be closed. Remember playing in the wet stuff until your fingers were numb and you’d go home barely able to take off your wet clothes. How good that hot cocoa would taste while your fingers and toes were thawing out. Sit back into your car seat; loosen your grip on the steering wheel and think of all those children that get to play in that fresh fallen snow. Then as you walk across the parking lot to the building where you work stop, hold out your arms, turn your face to the sky and let some of that snow take you back to those childhood days. When all else fails you could always drop you pants and slide on the ice.