A Snowy Transition

Many of you are already tired of winter weather. The calendar just switched from February to March, but spring-like weather eludes us. You know the old saying about the lion and the lamb. As I write this I do not know whether March came in quietly or with gusto.

March to me means changing weather. The end of winter is in sight, but the snows of winter have not yet given up. The temperatures go up and down. With the huge temperature changes there is often wind. That is where the kites come in. On the farm the children always got kites for Easter because there was sure to be good currents to fly them.

When people complain today, I find it hard to offer sympathy. I remember the old-fashioned winters where the snow came in November/December and stayed until at least the end of March. I remember days on end when I came home from school to a driveway packed with snow. It was my job to clear the way so that grandpa could get the car to the garage when he arrived home from work.

I usually started by shoveling two paths for the tires, but often the snow in the middle needed to be cleared as well. It was backbreaking work. I usually occupied my time shoveling by thinking of the fun I was going to have when I was finished shoveling. Once my work was done I could get out my sled and join the neighbors sliding down the road. I lived at the end of the road so traffic did not bother us much.

Once my work was done I headed into the house for dry clothes. My snowsuit and snow pants were fine, but I needed dry mittens and a clean scarf. While I was inside I stood on the cast iron register in the living room to warm up. The moisture from my clothes probably helped the humidity.

Now I headed out to have fun in the snow. My trusty wooden sled with metal runners served me well. When I was very small it had a wooden box on it to hold me in. Once I could manage the thing on my own grandpa removed that box.

I still have that “Lightning Glider”. It has now gone through another two generations of children. It was often the sled of choice because if you waxed the runners it really sliced through the snow.

There were times when my friends and I took our sleds to the athletic field near the high school to slide down that hill. I was never embarrassed by my little sled because it went down the hill so well. My friends marveled at the distance it traveled once it hit the bottom. It really glided across the sparkly snow.

As I write this I am beginning to see what is wrong with American youth. The trend toward obesity is not all the fault of the fast foods they eat. Some responsibility lies with other sedentary habits that have evolved. Children no longer go out to play in the snow like we did. We were outside every day. That, of course, was after we walked home from school.

Do children shovel today? I guess even that is limited because I see the dads out with their snow blowers.

Our other winter pastime was ice skating. My 90-something neighbor showed me how to lace my skates properly. He also showed me many moves on the ice such as skating backwards and going in a circle. He loved to ice skate. I imagine that is what kept him going for so long. Mr. Fors did not seem to notice that he was the oldest guy in the warming shed. He passed along advice to everyone and generally joined in the fun that skating had to offer. Sometimes I would see him giving pointers to the bunch of guys who were playing a pick-up game of hockey. We always divided the rink so that everyone felt safe. The hockey players took one side and the regular skaters had the rest. The ice was only about 6 inches deep so there was no danger of anyone falling in even with the yoyo temperatures of March.

A few weeks ago the children and grandchildren took all of the snow gear to the top of the gravel pit. They spent an afternoon sliding down the hill. That was always our favorite spot to slide. There was no danger of going into the road from there.

We have some movies of the whole family on the hill years ago. In those days they also skied. The skis used were nothing fancy. They did not even have bindings. You just slipped your feet into some stirrups and glided down the hill. I remember one picture of a ski going down the slope without its passenger.

The big treat after playing out in the snow was hot chocolate. Since we lived on a dairy farm we always used our own milk to make it. If we were not lucky enough to have cookies to eat we had soda crackers. That was new to my husband. I explained that when I lived at home there was a restaurant called “Candyland” that served hot chocolate with whipped cream. With every cup you also received some soda crackers to accompany it.

The secret to surviving winter is to take whatever comes and figure out how to deal with it. Enjoy the beautiful white stuff that creates such beautiful pictures. Stay off the road if it is slippery. Go out and play in the snow, then enjoy some hot chocolate – one of winter’s guilty pleasures.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.