We’re in our fourth season in ten months here at Mom’s house. And each season brings a flood of childhood memories. Memories that remind me of simpler times. Times of care-free and worry-free living. Times that have me asking where the easy life went. Times that have sent me in search of untethered contentment and how to harness it if I find it.
Our first season here which was last Spring had me thinking of Easter and the excitement of wearing our Easter capes and bonnets to church. I remember playing in the field sand pit on April Fool’s day, playing an April Fool’s joke on my playmates, and then running for my life, laughing uncontrollably.
Summer time triggered memories of swinging on the green metal swing set humming church hymns, and singing Girl Scout and Elton John songs. “We are the Girls from Camp Ishoda” and “Benny and the Jets” came to mind. The summer months also had me reliving the fun of endless games of croquet, kick ball, baseball, and hide and seek.
This Fall, I resurrected some old photos of us dressed in Halloween costumes. We were all so uninhibited dressed like cartoon characters and wearing made-up costumes. Collecting pretty leaves and pressing them in waxed paper with Mom’s iron was a favorite pastime.
With the winter heavy upon us now, I’ve found myself thinking of all that winter offered us as youngsters. We were clueless about the peril of driving in bad weather, the potential dangers that lurk when the power goes out, or the shear risks of sub-zero weather that so many people and animals face in the great Northeast for several months each year. No, we just had fun and worried not. We just had no idea. And that’s the way it should be for kids.
So I’m finding myself looking back on some winter memories with child-like wonder. Like the time in 1965 when we were hit hard with an ice storm. We lost power for 2 solid nights, and during the third night, the heat came on. My parents had 4 kids ranging in ages from 2-5 years old. I was three and actually remember this adventure. I don’t remember for a second being afraid or cold. My parents moved the whole family into the dining room, hung blankets in the doorways, and turned on the gas stove for heat. Mostly what I remember is the smell of the stove. The burden of worry was on the adults.
Each winter, the snow seemed to pile up to proportions that were well beyond the tallest of us kids. Walking through the snow got to be impossible, so we made snow tunnels and forts. Before going out into the wonderland, my mother would line us up against the cupboard in the kitchen, shove mittens and hats on us, and zip us up, sometimes catching our little chins in the zipper…by mistake, of course. No worries…we were on our way outside to play in the snow. We had no thoughts on how cold or snowy it was. Our only thought was to have fun. And that’s what we did. We had endless fun devising snow structures and playing harmoniously with each other in the back yard.
When we were a little older, we would sled on three sleigh riding hills. One in the shooting range, one in the gravel pit, and one right on our dead-end street. The street was private, so it didn’t get plowed by the town. It wasn’t even paved. In the winter, it turned into a sheet of ice, and the runner sleds worked like magic. We’d pile 2-3 people on each one. The last person on the sled would run while pushing the sled and then jump on. The more weight, the faster and farther we’d go. Even the adults got involved. Again, no worries, just fun.
The other two sleigh riding areas were like roller coaster hills. We’d take our plastic sleds and make trains. There were cliffs and trees and creeks. We weren’t afraid. We just had fun.
The wonder of being a fearless and free-spirited child diminishes and actually seems like it evaporates with age. I find myself asking how and why this happens. Yes, more responsibilities means less play time. Aging means less agility and physical abilities. But why does the magic have to disappear? Maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe it’s just a matter of knowing what creates magic in an adults mind and world. Maybe it’s something that has to be pondered. Maybe it’s a good thing that I experienced pockets of magic as a kid, and an even better thing that I can remember and hold it in my hand like fragile crystal. Maybe it’s time to act like a kid again.
I think I’ll make a snow man.