Every time I watch either A Christmas Story or Prancer on television, I am a kid again in the Mid-West, knee-deep in Christmas snow. And, as everyone knows, a Christmas snow is magic. The stars seem brighter, the possibilities endless, and joy abounds.
In the Mid-West, every hill is a possible sledding hill. The best ones have a stream at the bottom meant to be dodged or jumped. We glided through orchards, through woods, down steep hills fast enough to launch ourselves over that stream and around a corner, laughing the while. We each had your standard flexible flyer, and someone always trailed a toboggan. The type of sled used depended on whether the snow was wet, dry, or icy. The worst part of sledding was dragging your flyer uphill for the next run. And, of course, the occasional crashes.
Toboggan crashes were the worst, especially when the driver yelled right. Always. Trust me, always, half of the riders leaned right and the other half left. The toboggan hit the tree dead-center every time, skyrocketing the riders up, out, and head first in the snow. When we were tired beyond standing, bedraggled, and frozen, we lumbered home, sleds and toboggans in our wake. If we were lucky, a cup of hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows was bubbling on the kitchen stove. If we weren’t, we heated milk and spooned in chocolate powder from a can. It worked.
Back then, we walked to school, the girls in skirts, half-socks, boots (sometimes leggings), coats over the whole, hats and earmuffs and mittens and… The camaraderie of walking, picking up friends at each street corner, teasing, and throwing the odd snowball took our minds off our blue lips and pink legs all the way to our two-story brick school building. Yes, with a flagpole just out front. Cloakrooms were invented for winter. It took us an extra ten minutes to hang up our heavy coats and get our feet out of our dripping boots. Once in class, we spent the day mooning out the classroom window, hoping the snow would stay until the weekend so we could romp and stomp in it until dark, about 4:30 in the afternoon.
A weekend snow was the best. Waking to a sparkling, uninterrupted field of white ripe for snow angels, or a game of fox and goose stomped intricately on the lawn (complete with the berry patch) was heaven on earth. The rules of fox and goose were as loose as the design, sort of a Sorry gameboard but trickier. It was a Dr. Suess version of tag gone mad with safe zones and castle keeps.
I grew up in snow country then joined the Navy and ended up in California. In the second book of the Cooper Vietnam Era Quartet, Head First, Lieutenant Robin Haas, from Michigan, stationed in Monterey, CA, sings my lament.
After five years in California, it still seemed ridiculous…to buy a Christmas tree when it was sixty degrees outside. At least there was some hint of seasons for those on the Monterey Peninsula, though you had to be astute to detect it. Winter was more a chilling down and brightening up than anything. Summers were cold, foggy, and filled with increasing numbers of tourists…
Robin picked out a six-and-a-half-foot Jackpine from the Christmas trees leaning against the Base Exchange wall. She shook it out to check its shape, ignoring the disapproving Monterey pines that shadowed her in the setting winter sun.
A fresh snow still thrills me. Each one holds the promise of fun. I suppose that is why I love to be in our cabin in the Sierras when the flurries begin to fly. The dream of a bright morning sun shining on a field of unbroken snow, waiting for that first footstep, first sled ride, or the first ski run. And is why I dream of buying a little Cape Cod house on a horseshoe-shaped street with the wild toboggan hill (stream at the bottom) just off the next road up but one.
Happy Holidays and Snows to all!
D. Z. Church
Head First is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Head-First-Cooper-Vietnam-Quartet-ebook/dp/B07QG4M97T