Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow day leaves lasting memory

Growing up in New York and Pennsylvania, snow doesn't thrill me as much as my friends and neighbors here in North Carolina. I have too many memories of being snowed in for days, trapped by icy roads and drifts that blow back as soon as you shoveled them out.

I recall the smell of wet wool mittens and scarves dying on the back of the old wood-burning stove and unbuckling galoshes with red, numb hands. Even the thrill of a no-school day faded as we realized that also meant a no-library day and we  had read every book in the house. This was before TV, so we amused ourselves by putting together jig-saw puzzles and listening to the radio.

I think those winters were when the term "cabin-fever" was invented.

I remember one day in particular. It had snowed, but the following morning saw blue skies and a field of the white stuff packed just right for sledding. Since we lived on a hill, the neighbor kids came in droves. Some had sleds, but others had a piece of cardboard or an aluminum tray.

Among the sledders were two boys from a neighboring farm. This family was extremely poor, and usually we didn't associate with them--not because of the poverty, but for a reason that shall become clear.

Mom looked out the window and saw that the boys' torn trousers revealed they were not acquainted with underwear. Their little butts were red with cold.

Mom called them inside to warm up, standing them near the registers that brought the heat from the furnace to the rooms above.

As they thawed, the odor of manure wafted throughout the house. It seemed they weren't acquainted with soap, either.

As soon as they were dry, she shooed them home. By then, the entire house smelled not so much like a barn, but the pile of fertilizer heaped outside the barn door. It took days for it to dissipate.

I know that child protective services were called more than once to investigate the family, but evidently the kids were fed and clothed (somewhat) and dry. And I know one brave teacher took her second-grade charge to the bathroom every morning to wash him and provide clean clothes. She reclaimed these at the end of the day because, like the clothing good-hearted souls donated to the family, they tended never to be seen again once they walked out the door.

This started out to be about snow, and ended up being about poverty. The two are forever associated in my mind.

And someone ought to do something about both of them.


  1. When my brother was born, I was 9. It was in 75. It had snowed so much the previous day that my mother was trapped in our apartment. My father had to call the super and make sure the ploughs would start at our house so he could get the car out from under the snow and drive out the neighborhood.

    Meanwhile, my grand-mother was on her way to stay with me. But her car got stuck and in her stress, when she pulled out the tire tracks out of the trunk, she locked her keys in. I was sent to fetch my grand-father's keys at the store down the street and to give them to my grand-mother. She was real close. I remember trotting on the snow with a huge purpose in my heart.

    Finally, my mother left for the hospital, my grand-mother took me back to her house and we waiting until my brother came into this world.

    Oh, did I mention he was born on APRIL 5th?

  2. Very moving blog, Sandy.

    I'm not that fond of snow either-for a very different reason. When I lived in Massachusetts, I had just cleared my driveway after yet another snowfall and enduring 20 days in a row of sub-zero temps. I leaned on my shovel to rest, sweating despite the minus on the thermometer. Just then, the snowplow came through to clear my street. And pushed a mountain of slush back onto my newly cleared driveway. I went inside and accepted a job in North Carolina that very day. :)