Snow did not stop our mother from sending us outside with orders to return only for meals, but we didn’t complain.
At least I don’t remember complaining.
We dressed in our limited snow gear, which included socks for mittens, an occasional pair of snow pants and a less-than-occasional pair of boots and made the best of it.
In truth, we had a blast.
With bottoms and bellies affixed to red, plastic discs, we would sled down a long hill at our grandfather’s house that was perfect for sledding in length and slope but less than ideal because it came to an ended in the street. This required us to break before reaching the bottom (which was difficult), abandon the sled at the last second (which was painful) or shoot across the street, hoping that a car wasn’t coming (which was daring and fun).
My siblings were more than happy to simply sled up and down the hill, but dissatisfied unless we were competing (and I was winning), I would create games in which two or more of us would sled down the hill side by side (and sometimes on a single sled), battling to dislodge each other from our sleds before we reached the street.
No one enjoyed these games, but being the eldest, I forced them to play anyway.
There was one particular winter day when the sheen of ice atop the snow was so thick that we could walk on it without ever breaking through. Though it made walking back up the hill incredibly difficult. the sledding that day was the best that I’ve ever experienced. The speeds that we achieved were astounding.
The sled battles that day were equally fantastic. The combination of the high speeds and the rock hard surface raised the stakes of the contest considerably.
I spent many winter days slinging to a sled.
We also built some excellent snow caves from the piles of snow on the edge of our driveway, and our snowball fights were long, violent and merciless. Rocks were not permitted, but ice balls were required if you hoped to survive.
When we were cold, we would retreat to the barn, which wasn’t any warmer than the outside air but protected us from the worst of the wind. We would huddle in the hayloft and warm up before leaping from the roof into piles of snow below.
I was seven years old during the Blizzard of ‘78, when our area of Massachusetts received more than 40 inches of snow. We were trapped in our home for days, and when we were finally able to leave the house, it was only through a series of trenches that had been dug through the snow to the car. The walls of the trenches were twice my height. I remember an awful sense of claustrophobia walking through those trenches, only able to see the solid white of the walls and the icy blue sky overhead.