Friday, March 8, 2013

When Children Roamed in Snow



We made the most of snow days.  We were passionate about snow.  There was almost a clawing to get outside from the moment no school was announced.  I remember the large dial on the tv and channel 3, the news out of Charlotte.  I remember cereal and nightgowns and begging and dying and praying and holding my breath waiting for the line to go across the bottom of the screen:  Mooresville City Schools -- Closed.  Baskets were raided for gloves.  Mismatched gloves were okay.  Too small boots were okay.  Jeans were okay.  Thermal underwear was forced.  

Every possible downhill was tried -- driveways, backyards, front yards, schoolyards.  It was an outside world all day long with breaks only when jeans were soaked and thighs were numb.  There were breaks only when my brother hit me so hard in the face with a snowball I cried.   Breaks only when they made you come inside.  I don't remember new sleds.  I remember cracked sleds and old sleds from neighbor's basements.  I remember Mrs. Cooke saying her wooden sled needed wax, but we could try it anyway.  I remember the trophies and plaques all over the basement walls from her athletic children who were all grown up.  I remember cardboard boxes and trash can lids.  I remember all the best hills.

Chuck Kory built forts.  He and his brother pushed so hard.  Pushed you right down in the snow.  Tackled you.  Called you a baby.  Ran you off.  Let you come back.  They abandoned their forts too soon.  I don't know where they went.  We passed their cruel snow world on.  We would lie near the edge of the creek bank pretending we were dead until Kathryn's little sister ran screaming back up to the house.    

Our neighborhood days were always parentless, but especially on snow days.  Parents did not play with you.  The streets were abandoned except for the random Buick or Pontiac swerving slowly, trying not to kill us. My mother would say, "Why do you idiots sled right down the middle of the street?" 

I remember walking through the woods.  An old, well-marked daily world made new by snow.  There were rallying cries and tactics, walkie-talkies and winners.  Important wars were fought in those woods.  There were bb guns and snowballs filled with rocks.  There was vengeance and freedom, romance and treehouses and things that were red.  I loved everything red in the snow -- mittens, coats, doors, buckets. 

Walking through the neighborhood, you could not leave a single yard pristine, un-tromped on.  Footprints and snow angels were fascinating.  We made snowmen out of the ugliest, nastiest, most unclean snow.  We tried, you know?  We tried to make snowmen in the driest, most un-fun snow.  We collected icicles.  We tried to make ice skating ponds on sidewalks.  Even in the lightest of snows, we made the most of it.  

All the food was just what you think it was: cocoa and grilled cheese and tomato soup and raviolis and chocolate chip cookies.  There was HBO at noon over fish sticks and tater tots in your pajamas with your face on fire. There was staring at the dryer, impatiently opening the door so you could layer back up and head back out.  There were phone calls and plans made.  I'll meet you at South School.  

There was that moment when you knew you'd stayed out too long.  We always pushed our curfews too far, past dark.  Dragging a sled home past Mr. Field's house, he'd be out in his driveway -- shoveling...working.  He was on the school board.  He had some influence on whether school got called.  He'd see me trudging home late.  He'd nod and wink and smile and say, "I thought you'd be happy."    

I was.