February 9, 2013

Winter

Adults may dread the arrival of winter, but for a child that first snowfall heralds a season of endless delights. Some of the brightest (and best) of my childhood memories are of winter days in Cohassset, a small coastal town about twenty miles south of Boston. What follows is a patchwork quilt of memories of short days packed with long hours of winter fun.

Ice skating on a nearby pond a short walk from the house down Atlantic Avenue  ... clumps of grass sticking up through the ice to catch your skates and send you tumbling and sliding, laughing all the way ... cracking the whip ... feeling the ice shift under your feet ... looking down through the ice to study the debris trapped in the freezing of it ... the sound of melting ice running under the snow ... tightening the laces on your skates amid a clutter of boots and shoes ... the long walk home ... hot chocolate with a big dab of marshmallow cream melting into it ...

The front yard down the street that had standing water left over from the fall rains that would freeze over in winter to make a pond big enough for games of hockey and red light ... sliding down the hill in my backyard ... holding the sled and running a few yards before flinging yourself down at the last minute to hurtle as far down the hill as possible ... sliding over one of the omnipresent boulders in New England and going airborne for a few feet before landing ... snowball fights where you packed the snow as hard as you could ... putting a small piece of gravel in the middle to give it added weight ... jumping into a snow bank ...

Walking under a clean sky that seems to go on forever ... nature stripped bare ... the silence of a snow covered field ... fingertips growing numb inside woolen mittens ... cold air freezing your nostrils ... smelling the coming snow ... blowing out clouds of air in short puffs just to see what it looked like ... hearing the ice groan as it expanded and contracted under a weak sun... the trees creaking under the weight of snow and ice ... snapping off an icicle and licking it ...scooping up a handful of snow and eating it ... catching snowflakes and studying them to see if they really are all different ...

Snow that stayed on the ground for weeks on end ... ... driving on snow-covered roads packed down to a firm surface waffled with tread marks from hundreds of passing cars ... the annual ritual of putting on the winter snow tires ... studded tires and tire chains ... the soft crunch made by tires as you drove slowly down the street ... the stiffness in the manual transmission as you tried to shift gears through congealed transmission fluid ... the muffled burbling of motors left running to warm up ...

Being glued to the television while Don Kent gave the weather forecast on WBZ-TV ... putting on boots and mittens and snow suit, topped off with a hand-knit cap ... snow sticking to your woolen mittens and piling up inside the elastic bands of your snow pants ... waiting while your mother took off your boots and snow pants before you could go any further inside the house ... more hot chocolate with marshmallow cream floating on top ...

You only have one childhood, one chance to experience things for the first time. If you are lucky, those first memories will be lasting memories to warm your soul throughout the winter of your life.

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