Snowy memories

It snowed last night. Winter snows in Tucson are usually confined to the tops of the mountains that surround our city. Mt. Lemmon, at 9,159 feet, has had about 50 inches this winter, which is a good year for them. Every so often the snow makes it down to the 3,300 foot level where we live, and we feel like children all over again.

I realize we wouldn’t feel much nostalgia about snow-covered landscapes if we lived in Minnesota. I do feel very sorry for you folks, and I hope you’ll return my sympathies when it’s 118 here in August. But snow reminds me of the joy of school being cancelled, of sleds and toboggans and ice skating on frozen ponds, of building snow forts and fighting snowball battles to the death, and of steaming mugs of mom’s hot chocolate heating up our frozen fingers when we were chilled to the bone.

My sister and me sledding in Baltimore in 1957.
My sister and me, Baltimore, 1957

We kids took to the streets with our sleds whenever we had a good snow. The community where I grew up was hilly, so there were a number of streets that made great sled runs, especially once dozens of us had hardened the snowpack with steel runners.

I remember dragging my sled out from under the house, cleaning off the cobwebs, polishing the rust off the runners with steel wool, tightening bolts, bundling up and heading out with my brother and sister to challenge the other kids to a race. We would often go down tandem, as in this photo, with a friend pushing us to get us started. Our faces would sting in the wind as we streaked down the hill, only to come to a very sudden stop when we hit the curb of the street at the bottom. We’d tumble across the yard, we’d laugh, and we’d trudge back up the long hill to do it all over again. What simple joys.

I remember a particular snow storm when I was in college. I was visiting a friend’s house, the snow was falling heavily and I had decided it was time to make my way home. As I walked out to my car, I stopped for a bit and watched the snow fall around me. I could hear the flakes making very quiet tinkling sounds as they landed, and I noticed that all sound was eerily muted by the shower of snowflakes. I guess I’d never had that experience before, so I just stood there for a long time, entranced, until my friend called out and asked if I was ok.

Honestly, I don’t like being cold, not at all. I’m really glad I don’t live in Buffalo or Chicago. But snow, or at least the memories of snow, can be quite beautiful.

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