The First Snowflakes by
50
(82 Stories)

Prompted By Snowy Days

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“It’s snowing!” And all the kids in Mrs. Kennerson’s first grade class jumped up from our desk chairs as one, rushing excitedly to the window.  Outside, flurries spun and danced in the wind, and for that moment, it was the most important thing in the world. Something about the first snow of the year, the definitive change of season, the promise of winter holidays, the newness of every year when you are six.

“It’s snowing!” And all the kids in Mrs. Kennerson’s first grade class jumped up from our desk chairs as one, rushing excitedly to the window.  Outside, flurries spun and danced in the wind, and for that moment, it was the most important thing in the world.

Snow seemed deeper then, and maybe it was.  Fluffy snow was for snow angels; first tracks were important.  Denser snow was good for snowmen, though it was hard to lift the torso or head onto the bottom snowball.  The annoying boys who lived next door would build snow forts, with snowball ammunition.  And occasionally a firm crust would form on the snow, which—if you walked carefully—you wouldn’t break through.

Our house was on an unpaved street which marked the edge of East Lansing, Michigan; on the other side of the street, the land sloped downward into old fields behind the Best farmhouse.  In winter, water gathered in the depressions, forming a small pond amid the weeds.  This is where we would strap on the double runner skates over our boots, and awkwardly learn to glide on the ice.  Later we got single runner skates and could use the rink at Marble Elementary School; when it was cold enough, the fire department would come and hose down the ball field to make a rough oval.  Girls practiced turns and “shoot the duck”; boys played hockey and skated too fast.  Maybe there would be games everyone could join, such as “crack the whip” or “Red Rover”. And one time there was an ice storm—impossible for cars to drive, but beautiful on the trees, and it turned the empty streets into an endless skating rink.

When the snow built up enough and was packed down by tire tracks, we would run and then slide on the tread marks as we walked to school.  We could also pull our sleds, or—on really lucky days, get our dad to pull us–down the snowy road, which dead-ended in a ravine that was hard to traverse.  But on the other side lay the wilds of Mickey Mouse Hill, where you could choose your run, through the trees or not, sliding all the way to the bottom.  Then breathlessly tug the sleds up again, and again, before eventually trudging back home, exhausted.

I looked this up recently on google maps, and that edge of town is now solid suburbs with paved streets.  Mickey Mouse Hill has been levelled for a Middle School.  The Marble Elementary ball fields are now a parking lot. I know snow can be wearisome, even dangerous, and old snow is dirty and icy.  I don’t tolerate the cold as well as I did.  And yet, even now, I smile at those first snowflakes–magic.

 

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry


Characterizations: funny, moving, well written

Comments

  1. Thanx Khati, as always your fine writing gives us the story and the emotional wallop.

    I too wrote about the bliss of my father pulling me on my sled down our unplowed street. It may have been 70 years ago, but in my mind’s eye it was yesterday.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    You describe those first snow days and fun childhood activities so well, Khati. So much fun (particularly if one didn’t have to drive in it – the ice was treacherous).

    As a Detroiter, with a December birthday, there was always snow on the ground at that time of year. No longer, with the warming of the planet, though it was 4 degrees when I woke up this morning and is a whopping 7 at this moment. But we seem to have avoided a snow storm that will whip across the plains and be only rain by the time it hits here tomorrow. I can’t say I’m disappointed.

    Looking at Google Earth must have been dispiriting, but not surprising, given its proximity to Michigan State, which has gone from an Ag School to a major powerhouse university (I have many cousins and friends who went there; some still support it). Urban creep is everywhere. Harvard has taken over Allston.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Your description of the snowy days of our childhoods is spot on, Khati. Growing up in Michigan, I remember so many similar experiences. So sad that Mickey Mouse Hill and so many other empty spaces that were perfect for children have given way to developments.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Yes, it is hard for people to connect to nature when the built environment is so overwhelming, and it is so critical that we do. We were lucky that it was easier when we were kids. Let’s hear it for parks and urban greenery and wild places and stewardship.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    Beautiful writing (of course), and a lovely memory, Khati. And, as per my story, I, too, fondly recall a tobaggon run of my youth. And if I’m ever back in my hometown, I will have to see if that hill, ostensibly zoned for farming then, has now been subdivided into home lots. Probably.

    But, yes, that first snowflake….

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Sledding was pretty exciting, especially if you chose to go head first, instead of sitting, or used a toboggan instead of the standard wood-slatted model with runners, or went through the trees. And of course, how many of us had adults there to supervise? Snow and cold remain love/hate with me.

  5. Suzy says:

    Wonderful story, Khati. I especially liked “Snow seemed deeper then, and maybe it was.” And the different kinds of snow, one good for snow angels (my favorite snow activity then), another for snowmen. And the crust that formed, that we tried not to break through. Sounds like childhood snowfalls were pretty much the same, whether in Michigan or New Jersey.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    In Bayonne NJ we had a strange twisted form of sledding. When the pavement got slick, groups of kids would grab onto the rear bumper of the Broadway bus and slide along the pavement in our PF Flyers. Manholes and bare patches made for great excitement. Occasionally so many were hitched on that the bus couldn’t get up icy inclines, and the driver would slam on the brakes!

  7. Marian says:

    Beautifully written, Khati, and you convey the splendor of snow from a child’s eye so well. The skating pond in my childhood town has been filled in, and homes now reside on what were once snowy fields. We were blessed to have run “free range” to play in the snow.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Yes, we were lucky, and it is easy to forget. On the other hand, they have several ice rinks in my current town, and are adding a new outdoor one. Of course, it is Canada. And I think my skating days are gone (skating backwards was the best, and going fast—never really a figure skater but not bad recreationally).

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