Okay, I will admit it. Despite having grown up in the Midwest and having spent my entire life here in “fly-over” territory, I had never built a snowman until about 3 years ago. It’s not that I never wanted to make one. The opportunity never really arose.
I have always liked snow. I think it makes for some beautiful landscapes, there are many fun things to do and it reminds me of Christmas time.
As a kid growing up in the Chicagoland area, it snowed a decent amount. Some of my best childhood memories involve snow. The first time I remember how fun snow could be was back in the early 80’s. I remember going over to my great aunt and uncle’s house just 5 minutes away where the kids (who were much older) had actually build an igloo-like structure. I literally walked out the back door and into a snow tunnel which led to the middle of the backyard where a small, enclosed room had been built. It was tall enough that I could at least comfortably sit down at the make shift seats that had been made out of snow. It was unreal and I always wanted to be able to replicate it.
As my brothers and I got older, we played in the snow together whenever we had the chance. Occasionally there was the throwing of snowballs, tackling each other in the snow and a still controversial (some say it was accidental, some say it was purposeful. The world may never know) maiming via a snow shovel to the face. But the highlight of most of my snow memories was going outside to play football in the snow.
We were known to occasionally play football in the open lot (aka The Prairie) across the street with some of the neighbors. Because my brothers and I were big kids and because it seemed like a recipe for certain disaster, we never played tackle football, only 2-hand touch. Except for when there was snow on the ground. When the snow came down, so did our level of concern for injury. For some reason we thought that a layer of snow was an excellent cushion to protect rapidly growing young bones, even though it was invariably siting on top of a rock hard base of frozen ground.
There were also many days of having to shovel the snow off the driveway. For some reason we rarely had the opportunity to do this when the snow had freshly hit the ground. It always seemed to be 2 days later after multiple cars had driven over it turning the snow into ice which had firmly affixed itself to the driveway. This immediately took all of the fun out of shoveling, turning it into hard-fought drudgery. But frequently, the reward for all of the effort was the same.
I remember walking in from the biting cold and being able to sit on the couch in the living room. On the surface you would feel cold and weary, like you were still wearing a layer of the outside like a jacket. But on the inside you would feel warm and alive as the warmth of the house would heat you up and the smell of my mom cooking up some pancakes would energize you for the rest of the day.
It was with these memories that all four of us trotted out into the falling snow the other day. We could barely contain Hannah’s excitement to go out into the snow and this infectious energy rubbed off on Amelia as well. We built a snowman, threw snowballs at each other and tried to make some snow angels. My favorite part was finding out all of the creative things that the kids think of to do with the snow. Amelia is young so her main thought was to eat the snow.
I think Hannah’s favorite activity was finding out that the slide was covered with snow, making the trip even more harrowing that it usually would. We all tried to engage in a light-hearted snowball fight, but my heart wasn’t really into it. Trying to figure out the 2 inch square area where you can safely target your small children (or your wife, for that matter) takes a lot of the mischievous fun out of pelting someone with a well-placed and well-packed projectile of doom.
That is nothing compared to the best snowball experience that I have ever had. Back was I was a kid living in Cal City, my brothers and I were out playing in our front yard in the snow. We were throwing snow around, making snow angels and other random winter fun. After awhile though, I started to feel like I was going crazy. I could have sworn that snowballs were falling out of the sky and landing nearby. But I could never actually see one fall, so I must have been imagining things. This continued for about 10 minutes, until finally my dad came trotting out from the back yard around to the front yard taunting us and throwing some snowballs. It turns out that I wasn’t crazy, my dad had been lobbing snowballs at us from the backyard for the past 10 minutes.
Ever since that time, during snow days I have always made sure to check the back yard to make sure that there are no silent snipers waiting to pounce. More importantly, I have started trying to find places to hide and so I can carry on my dad’s tradition and spring my own surprises on my unsuspecting family members.
Even though I am an adult now, I still love the snow and look forward to snow days. Here’s to hoping there are many more days this winter with big, wet, fluffy snowflakes falling. Just as long as they are on days that I don’t have to go to work! Otherwise it is just a waste of an opportunity to pummel friends and family.