Cheryl Kimball's Nature Talks: Winter was fun as a kidBy CHERYL KIMBALL March 02. 2018 6:55PM
The roads were dry. Lots of bare ground was exposed around the farm. Walking was easy, barn chores were simpler, walking the dogs was enjoyable without fear of slipping on hidden ice. And then the weather report of 3-5 inches of snow on its way. Easy walking would return, but for now the world was going white again. The disappointment I felt made me think of being a kid, when the snow meant not difficulty but play. And I imagined sitting down with my late brother and reminiscing about winter fun, the things we couldn’t wait to do over Christmas break or February vacation or just on the weekends.
Sledding was best. A sled with runners took specific conditions. Toboggans were okay. But the simplest fun that could be had was one kid on a flying saucer. The neighbor’s driveway was long and sloped enough to make a ride worth the trudge back to the beginning. I recall sliding and trudging and sliding and trudging until almost wetting my pants having waited so long to go inside and then having to get a snowsuit off in a hurry. I wasn’t alone — all of us prolonged the risk of going inside and not being allowed back out again because it was too late or too cold or too close to dinner.
My brother and I would work very hard on a sled run that started at the top of the hill behind our garage, go the length of the house and make a wide turn and level out in front of the house. If you missed the turn you’d go straight down another little slope and toward the stone wall along the lower driveway; hopefully you had slowed down enough that the crash was minor or you bailed first. You could make the turn and end up having an intimate moment with one of five giant white pines that lined the front lawn or, worse, head to the road, although the drainage ditch should stop you before tragedy. All these potential obstacles made the run exciting, but the most exciting was when you got going full tilt and made a complete clean run.
Ice skating was another favorite winter activity but it was a little more complicated than sledding. There was a small vernal pool a couple hundred yards into the woods that could be enjoyed for a quick skate. It didn’t take much to clear it off. A state park in town had a bigger pond that my dad would snow plow when he still had a small Jeep, but skating there required a ride to and from.
Another pond that was half as far and we could go to more often because it belonged to my grandmother was known as Kimball’s Pond. A group of neighborhood kids would gang up on the snow and have the pond cleared in no time. I remember the pond as rather wild with no comfortable place to get your boots off and your skates on, but once you did a fun time was had by all. My brother and his friends would preoccupy one end with ice hockey while the rest of us blazed around on figure skates with their pointy little grippers in the front of the blades. I barely recognize that pond these days; my grandmother’s plain little house has been renovated into a lovely cottage and the pond and its environs look like a park. I don’t know if anyone skates there or not these days — it looks much smaller than it did when I was a kid — but it certainly holds a lot of memories for a lot of kids who aren’t kids anymore.
We did the other usual things as well — building snowmen, snow forts and snow angels. But I admit, as an adult, winter has not held this captivation for me.
These days, I snowshoe and cross country ski once or twice over winter. I have a snowmobile and take perhaps one ride a season if time, temperature and snow pack coincide. But these days the best things I like about this season are feeding the birds and seeing the end of winter on the horizon. Those bare-ground days seem hopeful and the closer it gets to spring the more I can count on that “it won’t last long” feeling. Funny though, just like I long for any season but, I do find somewhere in mid-August I oddly think of winter’s white overlaying the land and how pretty it is. But pretty is fleeting. Life is simply more difficult in winter. I guess it gives me a point of comparison by which to all the more enjoy the other seasons.
Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. Email her at email@example.com.