The prompt picture I’ve chosen from Sepia Saturday for December is a view of a snowy and very empty playground. It is their number 398 which is out of sync with my ending 2016 Sepia Saturday numbering. I chose it for December because it looks like a school playground to me. I also chose it because there aren’t many snow days here in Tucson. Growing up in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, however, I do remember snow days when school was called off.
It would go something like this:
Jill and I shared an upstairs bedroom. We’d been excited the night before because there was talk of a large snow storm heading our way. Could it be that there wouldn’t be school the next day? Before bedtime, we kept peeking out the front windows, using the street lamp to check for any detectable signs of snow. Every few minutes we’d have our noses pressed up against the chilled, single-pane windows looking out over the front porch.
“Enough,” Mom had said. “Get upstairs to bed. Make sure you brush your teeth.”
The next morning Jill and I woke up.
“Are you up?” Jill whispered.
“Yes, do you think it snowed?” I asked.
We both scrambled out of bed to the windows. They were covered in frost. A good sign! We peeled back the curtains to see a beautiful, pristine blanket of white covering everything.
“Do you think it’s enough?”
“Looks like it and I don’t see the snow plows,” Jill said. “It’s still pretty early. We should get back into bed before we get into trouble.”
Climbing back into our beds, where it was warm and snuggly, we whispered back and forth about what we’d do for the day if school was called off. So many plans but still no solid confirmation that school was closed.
Then we heard it! Blaring out over the town, the fire department siren, sending the signal that school was closed for the day. I’m sure my parents were rolling their eyes. The kids would be home for the day. Dad would have to shovel and plow. There would be snow tracked in all over the kitchen floor.
But us? Now that the whole house was awake, we jumped out of bed. It was time to put those plans into motion.
After breakfast, we dragged out from the downstairs closets everything we’d need for the day outside in the snow. Boots. Check! Mittens. Check! Snow suits. Check! Scarves. Check! Heavy socks. Check!
Mom made sure we were bundled up enough and that our snow suit pants legs were tucked securely into our boot tops. I think we probably looked like Ralphie’s little brother from The Christmas Story movie. We trundled out the door to retrieve the Flexible Flyer from the shed in the backyard. Once we had that, it was a short walk to the best hill we knew about. The neighbor’s driveway out behind Dad’s wood-shop. Of course, once at the top of the hill, an argument ensued about who got to go first. Jill won this time. Onto the sled she went.
The first trip down the hill was uneventful. The snow wasn’t packed down enough to really get any speed going. Jill dragged the sled back up to the top and it was my turn. A little better this time and we alternated for a while. Then, things got fun. With the snow packed down and a track established, the Flexible Flyer lived up to the “Flyer” in its name.
Steering a Flexible Flyer is a skill. If you’re sitting on it, you can use your feet to push the cross bar on the front to send the sled either left or right. Or, if there’s a rope tied to the cross bar on the outside edges, you can steer it like a horse. The really brave (or crazy) souls lie flat on their stomachs and use their hands to steer it; racing down the hill head first.
Each trip down brought something new:
“Yikes, watch out for the tree!”
“Did you see how hard I hit that snowbank?”
“Ha ha ha, you fell off way too soon.”
“Dang, the rope broke. We need Dad to fix it.”
“Let’s try going down together now.”
“Bet you can’t ride it backwards!”
After a while, our feet got cold and we were feeling some hunger pangs. We tramped back to the house, dragging the sled behind us. Mom made us stamp the caked snow from our boots. Then, off came all the clothing. Most of it got draped over the iron heating vents to dry out while we ate our favorite winter meal. Tomato soup (Campbell’s of course) and grilled cheese sandwiches. The best on a cold, snowy day.
Just as we were finishing lunch, we heard someone coming up on the back porch. Patty, my best friend from a few houses down, was at the door. She shuffled around in the kitchen, waiting for us to bundle up again. It was fort building time.
By now, Dad had finished plowing the horseshoe-shaped driveway. In front of his wood-shop, large piles of snow were awaiting our attention. We spent some time arguing about which side to dig into first. Once decided, we used our plastic, summer beach shovels to carefully cut away at the snowbank. We really didn’t get tunnels and chambers like we envisioned but we did end up creating enough of a depression for protection against an attack.
Like a snowball attack. We started chucking snowballs at each other. We raced from behind one tree to the fort then off to another tree. Snowballs mostly whizzed past the intended target but occasionally they hit their mark. “OW!! That one hurt!” Soon, we were all out of breath and tired from running around in snow up to our knees. Besides, it’s cold out here. Time to head back inside.
This time, from Mom, we heard a very stern, “That’s it. If you come inside, you’re in for the rest of the day!” We looked at each other and decided that we were definitely done for the day. Our mittens were wet, our feet cold, and our noses were running wildly. No school, playing in the snow and we could fill up the rest of the afternoon with inside games. Who could ask for a better day?