Friday, December 26, 2014


Snow can wait, I forgot my mittens.
Wipe my nose -- get my new boots on.
I get a little warm in my heart
when I think of winter...  - Tori Amos, "Winter"
Ethan's class had a project recently in which they all had to pick a holiday to learn and write about. He picked New Year's. I'm pretty sure it's because last New Year's Eve he was at his grandparents house and they let him sleep in a tent in the living room, play on the Kindle in there, AND stay up until midnight for the first time ever.
His talk about New Year's brought back memories so vivid I could almost smell and touch them.
I read an article recently about how (for whatever reason), the more resilient kids seem to be the ones who have stories passed down to them from their parents and family members. I'm not sure if that means the sort of random visceral memories I tend to have about childhood happenings or the big stories about overcoming and adversity and coping with change. Neverthless, I tell my stories, and my kids for the most part bear with me and only half listen. So I write them here and feel a little better.
Ethan mentioned New Year's, and suddenly I remembered countless New Year's Eves, pretending to sleep, waiting for my dad to come home. He played drums in a polka and later a 50s/60s band and always was out playing for something that night. Well past midnight he would come quietly into the house and lay "goodies" on the foot of our beds. They were party hats and noisemakers from whatever event he'd been playing for, and I waited for them every year.

I remembered those nights when the heavy snow was flying, of lying almost asleep while being serenaded by the comforting hum of snow plows headed up and down our little street. On a school night the sound was assurance we'd probably have a snow day the next day. On those nights when I was tired of winter, I'd lie there with my eyes closed and fix my mind for a few moments on summer. If I was very still and concentrated, I could imagine the sound was not a snow plow but the hum of motor boats on Flying Pond up in Maine.

I remembered snow days at the end of our dead-end street where a bunch of the neighborhood kids went to go sliding (not sledding, mind you, in central Mass. it was always "sliding"). We lived on a dead end street that ended at a small hill heading up to the town's ball field. The plows would push great piles of snow to the foot of the hill. We had two paths leading down that would conclude in a fantastic jump in our sleds over the snow piles and into the driveway of the four-family row house where my grandmother lived.

The picture window in her living room looked out onto the hill and to all of us. How many times did I race down, fly through the air, come to a landing, and see her standing there, watching us with delight and just a little hint of worry that someone would get hurt?

Then when our noses were running and our fingers and toes were getting numb, we'd pile into her house and strip off our wet things, which she'd throw in the dryer. We'd dribble snow all over her kitchen as she made us hot chocolate and presented us with cookies. A half-hour later, we'd be out there again in our warmed up snowsuits and mittens and hats, ready for more.

And I remembered the ball field, white with snow. I remembered sometimes climbing to the top of the hill with my sled but taking a moment to pause. I'd chew on a piece of snow. Sometimes I'd lay back as if preparing to make a snow angel and just look and listen. I'd watch the gray sky spread out above me and the snowflakes flying. I'd listen to the hush that seems to fall on the world around you when it's snowing and hear the wind as it swayed the trees around me. I'd feel a peace that rarely I felt at any other time.

And then I'd be off down the hill again, swerving to miss the trees and cresting over the snow pile, heart pounding, then hitting the slushy pavement, the plastic underbelly of my sled making a long scraping sound that gave me a nails on the chalkboard type feeling.

These were just regular days. There is nothing monumental or profound here. Except, maybe there is. Maybe any memory that envelops you with warmth -- even those of the most bitterly cold days -- is something extraordinary. Maybe any recollection that brings to mind feelings of fun, of feeling safe and daring and secure and brave, of feeling loved, is something worth treasuring and grasping with all of your heart.

I hope my children are collecting many of these.

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