Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Memories

By Martha Reed

In case you’re not from around these parts you may have missed yesterday’s big snowfall. We’ve had a mild December so far with one bad day of ice but there’s nothing like one bad day of zero degrees to remind you of just how warm forty degrees can feel. Yesterday, however, was one long day of falling snow and since I’ve done my Christmas shopping I settled in and decided to spend the day home (an extreme rarity any day) working on Chapter 24 and watching the kids tear up the snow in the ballfield next door. The under 12 crowd went sledding while the older boys divided into two camps: one for flag football and the other for hockey. Those kids were at it all day long and it reminded me of the energy of my youth.

For a short period of time in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, I lived an ideal childhood. We had a neighborhood full of young kids my age and we all lived around a small lake which provided endless entertainment opportunities – some of which our parents knew nothing about. Oh, I’m sure they knew we went skating once the ice was pronounced sound enough by a group of Dads and of course we went swimming as soon as possible once the ice melted and the water warmed up. But I’m pretty sure they never knew of our pre-spring season game where we rode our bikes across the ice to see which one of us would be the first to fall through the softened ice and I often wonder why our parents never asked us why we came home sopping wet on occasion or why my sister’s Banana Bike went missing until it was warm enough for us kids to send one of the Streeter boys down with a rope so we could haul my sister’s bike back to the surface.

The adventure that scares me now to think of it is that we went sledding on the lake’s spillway – the one place where the ice was never solid but boy! That hill was steep and you could really fly. I remember six of us kids piled onto the Rudolph brothers’ wooden toboggan and we took off downhill and with our combined weight the momentum carried us right out onto the middle of the pack ice before we all tumbled off and lay scattered across the pond. As we lay there, dazed and breathless, the ice slowly sank beneath our weight as it flooded with freezing cold lake water. It was truly a team effort to work our way out of that mess since each one of us had to crawl very slowly for shore completely aware that with each tiny movement we made we impacted the kid next to us on the ice. Somehow we all worked our way safely to shore, soaking wet but laughing and delighted with our success and with such a sense of satisfaction that we had tried something crazy fun, gotten into serious trouble over it and overcome the very real danger. I don’t know that kids these days will ever know that feeling of satisfaction since we’ve become such an indoor species lately with this newest generation and besides, if I saw any kids these days lining up to pull a stunt like that I would have to stop them!

Which got me thinking: what is your favorite winter memory?


Annette said...

My best friend and I used to sled on my grandparents' farm, starting at the top of the hill by the tractor shed, sailing across the farm lane, down toward the farmyard where we had four choices: 1. Aim for the gate and continue down through the yard all the way to Route 18. 2. Miss the gate and crash into the wooden picket fence. 3. Forget about the gate and crash into one of the outbuildings or 4. hit a swell in the ground just right which would flip you over on your back with the sled on top of you. This last choice was the only one that didn't involve potential injury. Serious injury.

My mom only recently learned of this particular version of the otherwise typical winter activity and freaked out. (It's okay, Mom. We survived with no broken bones or teeth!)

But, man, we had fun!

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Annette. And no helmets or padding, either. It's a miracle we survived. We had a summer version involving a large tree, the lake and a rope swing. Good times!

Jemi Fraser said...

We had so much fun in the winter. We'd lace on the skates at home and walk/glide/fall on our faces on the way to the neighbourhood rink. We didn't have a shed to change into, and our boots got stolen if we left them there. The blades got incredibly dull, but we never really noticed :)

Joyce Tremel said...

I lived in the city of Pittsburgh (Crafton Heights) when I was a kid. There was an alley behind the houses across the street from me. Although I don't remember it being all that steep (except at the top), it was really long. After a few hours, the track would be nice and icy. The tricky part was bailing out before we hit the bottom and got run over by a car/truck/bus on Crafton Boulevard.

Jenna said...

Joyce, I love Crafton and Crafton Heights. Some gorgeous houses out there!

We used to do most of this stuff too. The sledding, avoiding the trees and avoiding getting hit by a car or bus at the bottom of the hill. Skating on frozen ponds, doing our best to avoid weak spots. Cross country skiing - lots of cross country skiing in Norway. Getting lost in the woods...

I grew up with an old gravelled soccer field across the road from me, and as soon as it got cold enough, someone from the city - water dept, fire dept - would come out and spray it with water. The water would freeze and we'd go ice skating all winter. As soon as my homework was done every afternoon, I'd be out there. And so would everyone else. My kids don't have any of that now, and I sort of wish they did. Although I'm with Martha: if I saw someone do some of the stuff we did, I'm afraid I'd have to stop them too!

Merry Christmas, all!

Gina said...

Sorry that I'm in such a Grinch-y mood this year. I can't come up with any really great winter memories. I've been trying all morning, and all I can remember is the bitter cold, and the long walk to school. I just went to mapmywalk.com and measured it - it was .36 miles, but it felt more like 20 on those cold dark mornings when I'd be freezing my legs in a Catholic school jumper and knee socks. Then there was the winter that the downstairs neighbor, in whose apartment the thermostat was located, kept it turned down, which meant that it was freezing cold on the 2nd & 3rd floors where my family lived. It was too frigid on the 3rd floor to even try to sleep up there. My father was working nights, so the rest of us slept in the living room - my mother on the couch, my baby brother in his baby carriage, and my other brother and I in the playpen. My mother finally mentioned the problem to Mr. Gumto, the landlord, who promptly moved the thermostat into the hall. We did sled ride a few times on the front street. I lived in the last house on the left near the top of a slope, on a street that dead ended in a cemetery. [It's odd when your closest neighbors are almost all dead.]