(S)now Kidding

DadI have a like/hate relationship with snow. If I can just look out at the trees, laden with fresh new snow, as most poets do and commence to write, that is fine. I just don’t like having a shovel in my hand or feel the snow crawl down my boots, melting merrily along the way.

As you can see in the photo of my Dad, Beryl A. Martin, ( hater of all winters), he is not smiling cheerfully. I took this photo with a Brownie camera when I was ten years old and he actually posed for me. In the distance you can see Rowe’s Ledge and frozen Twitchell Pond and one of my grandfather’s very cold apple trees.

The burlap bag was filled with “blocks” from the mill where my parents worked and were used for kindling in the early hours of building the fire in the old wood stove to start another day. The Speed-Away sled was perfect for the hauling and one can barely see the little path behind Dad that was used throughout the winter. Kids feet beating it down as we rushed for the school bus and my parents as they used the flashlight to wind their way to the road in the darkness to get to work at the mill. This was way before little snow plows were available to clean out your  yard. Later on in life, Dad took full advantage of that as did my Mum. What a luxury to drive right to the house in the middle of January!

Oh the excitement to see the Greenwood road commisioner in his big truck as he passed by after a big storm. Roy Millett was the man during these storms and we appreciated him. The rumble of the truck would be heard before it came in sight and we’d rush to the window and announce, “the road has been plowed!”

The wind swept down South Pond and there were always gigantic drifts near the “old Joe Cummings place” as Dad referred to it. There were times when men were hired to shovel through the drifts as the plow could not budge the hardened mass of snow. I remember my Dad as one who went off with his shovel to assist in the drift openings.

I hated winter because I did not and do not like being cold. But for some reason, if there was a clear star filled, moonlight night I was on my Speed-Away sled pushing off with gusto and slamming down on my stomach and racing down my grandmother’s pasture hill. Then the haul up the hill and back down again until Ma appeared at the door and yelled it was bed time.

Boots came off , snow crusted mittens were put on the side of the stove to melt and ..let’s face it..just plain stink. Smell is too mild a word. Wet  mittens on a wood stove stink , but perfect for drying to be used in the morning for school. Faces still stinging from the sliding, we went to bed without protest and slept soundly for all the fresh air, I am thinking.

I hated snowball fights because I always lost and got snow down the neck and in the face. Strange I don’t remember making a snowman, but I must have. Forts were the big thing and my brother and I gouged at a bank until we (1) had a hole (2) looked at each other and decided to do something less tiring.

I have few scars from winter as compared to my summer wounds. I did have one huge accident, but it occurred in my senior year of high school. I thought I should attend the winter carnival and participate since I had the good fortune of being Queen of the ball that  night. Looking over the activities, snowshoeing was about the only thing I could qualify for and that was something I’d seen Dad do …my only experience. After pleading for permission to use his snowshoes and promises not to destroy them, he allowed me to use them for the snowshoe race.

I have no clue how I even knew how to strap them on my feet. I noticed my one opponent had ‘bear paw’ snowshoes. NO  TAILS and those on my feet were at least a mile long. Well, Dad said if you used “bear paws” you weren’t a true snowshoer. You were wrong, Dad. My opponent took off like the wind and w hile watching her do so, the tails crossed on my snowshoes and I went face first into…..crust. My face was a mass of tiny little smarting cuts…too numerous to count. Vanity had nothing to do with this. Pain had everything to do with it. Jeannie Mills, living close by on her farm, insisted I come into her kitchen and she applied something soft on the cuts to make it less painful.

I don’t know which was worse, the pain on my face or the loss of my dignity as I was sprawled out on the snow. I DID get up by myself..I think. I am sure that I returned the snowshoes, intact, to Dad and told him that bear paw snowshoes worked just fine for some people.

—and no, I have never snowshoed again. For all you snow enthusiasts, I am happy for you, but allow me to remain free of all cold activities that involve moving faster than a slow mincing walk. And now you know the like/hate relationship I have with snow.

What is it about February?

The sun is higher in the sky and feels warmer on the skin as we look out over snow drifts. Dad always said that and I thought he was just trying to make me feel better about winter, but then years later a weatherman said the same on a local broadcast, so maybe Dad was way ahead of times.

January is a loathsome month, thrown on the calendar to absorb all the feelings , hurt and otherwise, from the holidays and merry making. I have no idea what to do with that month because , to me, skiing and snowshoeing are something I cannot do any more and probably would balk if someone strapped either to my feet.

But then comes February with its beautiful colors of Valentine’s Day. Just the colors in the store makes a person feel as though there may be life after all under the skirt of white outside.

How well I remember February in Greenwood Center! It was the month of my birthday…a day that every kid feels is his own. You went to school and just knew that everyone there knew you were special that whole day..whether they knew it or not..you just felt it. We didn’t have any big celebrations at the little Martin household. Ma might have baked a cake if the oven “behaved” and slapped some frosting on it. I can’t remember blowing out candles but I must have somewhere through the years. I do remember a couple of gifts given me. Dad was definitely not a gift shopper or giver. However , one year he went to Brown’s Variety in Bethel and presented me with a book of fairy tales. I was probably ten years old at the time and he knew very well I was reading his detective magazines on the sly and maybe trying to tone down my selection of reading a bit. I still have the book.

The other gift is strange to remember. It was a pair of green slacks and a plaid girls flannel shirt to match. I wore it to school so proudly because prior to that, I had worn my brothers’ clothes…not that any of the kids cared or bullied.

We can’t forget the Valentine Box at school. That box so covered with crepe paper it could take off on its own and leave a vapor trail. How exciting to sit and gather the cards …and then take them home and go over them one by one..and especially the rare one with a lolipop glued to it. I wonder if that is still done in the little schools..or are there any little schools left?

The best part of February( besides my birthday) was knowing that spring training was going to start soon for the Red Sox. Now mind you, all we had was the old big Philco standing in the corner, but when spring training started and a few games broadcast, my brother and I were there listening. I haven’t changed…

I loved the local baseball games and after February, well soon the snow would go, the mud dry up and Sunday afternoons were baseball time. I remember Ma taking me to a ball game in Bryant Pond one of those afternoons. Somewhere, about the seventh inning, I had a terrible headache. Well, I lasted til we got to the car and she gave me probably an aspirin. Without her knowledge I grabbed an open bottle of coke and took that pill. I do not have to tell you that by the time we got to Locke Mills village I was urging her to step on the gas. To this day, I remember the terrific relief as we pulled in our door yard, I opened the door and let nature take its course. The headache was gone.

For some reason, February gives me hope that winter is not going to last forever. As soon as I settle into this little comfort nest, a blizzard blows in about the third week of March…but that’s ok. Baseball season will start soon.

–and those are my views on February …