As a kid, I thought snow was the best—almost. It fell in line behind Christmas, my birthday, and summer vacation, but still, a big snowfall brought joy to my heart. It meant sleigh riding, snowmen, snow forts, snowball fights, and a day off from school.
I recall standing at the kitchen door, with a bright light illuminating the back yard, watching as the big, white puffy snowflakes piled on top of one another until it seemed deep enough to close school. In the morning, we would charge down our very steep staircase to listen to WMTR, the local radio station, hoping to hear the words, “Boonton public schools-closed”, uttered from the lips of the morning announcer.
What should we do that day? After Grandpa shoveled the driveway, and the plows made several passes down our street creating huge mounds of snow flanking the driveway, it was time to suit up and head outside.
We would grab a few shovels and burrow our way into the mountain of whiteness to create the most awesome hideaway—a snow fort. The potential danger that another snowplow could make a second pass down our street and entomb us in our icy fortress never occurred to us. We were lucky nothing happened.
There was a plethora of sledding routes to choose from: Down the driveway, down the street, or in the backyard. The hill behind our house was the location of choice—our Uncle Pat’s yard. We would follow one of two routes. The longest took us from the top of the yard, winding carefully past the pear tree in the middle of the path, and ending in either our yard or my grandmother’s adjacent yard. Having two houses at the end of the route proved particularly dangerous after an ice storm. I recall losing control of my sled and crashing into my grandma’s house one time, shattering her basement window in the process. I was afraid to tell her, but she was very forgiving.
The alternative route involved heading up the side of the hill, beginning at the top under the cherry trees, and aiming our sleds toward another neighbor’s yard. We would spend hours speeding down the slope, and then slowly climbing back up the hill again and again and again.
When the roads were clear enough for my parents to drive, we would often go to Aunt Marian’s house and ride our sleds with our cousins and their neighbors. This was more dangerous, because their street intersected another at the bottom of the hill. Sometimes, we would send a scout down to watch for cars. On one particular fun-filled day of sledding, my cousin Alan drew the unlucky straw, I guess, so he rode down to take up his post at the cross street.
The problem with being the spotter was that no one protected him. As I recall, Alan reached the bottom at the same time as a car. He was not seriously injured, but that ended that afternoon of fun.
Those were the days. Now that I live where snow is quite the spectacle because of its infrequency, I laugh at the ingenuity children use in creating vehicles to ride in the snow—garbage can lids, cardboard boxes, and Tupperware containers. I watch them play in the snow from my window and recall those distant days of my childhood with a smile and a bit of sadness as I think of those loved-ones who are now far away or gone.