[Masthead] Fair ~ 45°F  
High: 70°F ~ Low: 42°F
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gray Matters: Winter Wonderland

Monday, February 9, 2009

While the season's snow has been mounting into piles and the weathermen have been reminding us of past record-setting winters, I've been recalling some childhood memories.

One big difference between then and now is the fact that, currently, I chill at the mere thought of going outside, but I have absolutely no recollection of ever being cold back then.

Partly, I suppose, it's the difference between childhood and old age, but another factor was my mother's expertise in the art of "layering." First, were the long johns, which I hated. She could fold them neatly under my heavy cotton stockings, but after I was old enough to do it myself they were always lumpy and ugly.

A heavy slip and woolen dress were next. Over those, I'd pull on snow pants, which were roomy enough to tuck my dress inside. Next I donned a cozy sweater and topped it all off with a warm coat. I don't recall the coats I wore to school, but I clearly remember the one I wore for play at home.

It was a big black plush hand-me-down from someone. Plush, yesterday's version of faux fur, was as ugly a fabric as you could imagine, but it had certain advantages. I liked using it as my own little science lab. To this day I have trouble accepting the assertion that no two snowflakes are exactly alike.

I'm just not sure anyone can prove it, but I often tried. There was nothing like the sleeves of that black coat on which to catch and closely observe snowflakes, one at a time. Snow, too, is the perfect medium for imprinting tracks. I was no neophyte biologist so the only ones I was sure of were those of rabbits. I'd often follow one off across the pasture hoping to meet a friendly bunny, face-to-face, but I never did.

In those years we walked the short mile across the pasture to our village school. Once in a while, if the weather was really severe, Dad would hitch his favorite team, Jim and Shorty, to the lumber wagon and give us a ride. On even rarer occasions he'd use the old bob-sled to pick us up after school, and that always turned into a major event. After my sister and I and several girl friends climbed into the sled, all the boys from town would grab the sides or the tailgate and slide along as Dad drove down the streets delivering them to their homes. What fun it was for all!

By 1936, the year of the Big One, I was in my early teens, and we had moved to a different farm. That year still reigns in Iowa as having the most continuing storms, sub-zero temperature readings, and the like. At its worst, we could walk from our back door, right over the yard fence, across the barnyard, and onto the side of the barn roof, which slanted closest to the ground.

One time, walking in the other direction, I spied something protruding out of the snow. It proved to be the old knife Mother always stuck in the top of the garden gate-post after using it to clean her hoe. That was truly a winter of walking on top of the world!

In this year's unusual season, I have seen several snowmen. Some neighborhood youngsters have fired a few snowballs and made an occasional snow angel in the vacant lot next door, but that's all of the activity I've witnessed. I hope I've just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It would be a shame if this Winter Wonderland of 2009 has only been bemoaned and endured with none of it transformed into memories for today's kids to fondly recount when they're the great-grandparents of generations to come.