Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow Days of Yesteryear

Christine and me
The picture above shows quintessential 1970s winter. My little sister and I are bundled with multiple layers of (largely inefficient) winter garb. This was long before Thinsulate; we were warmed by layers of wool and nylon.

You can't really tell in the picture, but we are wearing several layers of woolen mittens -- the outermost layer is covered in pills of snow. I can almost feel sympathetic tingling in my fingertips just looking at that picture. And I can feel the snow that slipped through the gap between our mittens and our jackets.

As a consequence, we went out for short stints until our extremities were dancing with frostbite, then we traipsed back in the house, filling the vestibule generously with lumps of melting snow, and stayed inside just long enough to endure the pain of blood reentering our fingertips and for our snowpants to dry off. Play, freeze, thaw, repeat.

You may also notice that we are each holding a kitchen knife. Bless my mother. She must have lost untold amounts of kitchenware during the years she raised her seven children. But she was probably so happy to get us out from under her feet that it was worth the trade-off.

(Here's the recipe.)

I do not remember being greeted with steaming mugs of hot chocolate accompanied by fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. My mother was smart enough to teach us how to make our own hot chocolate with real milk, real cocoa, and sugar.

I'm sure we had snow days with school cancellations, but I don't remember them. It's altogether possible that our mother sent us to school anyway, and we just hung out in the playground for a few hours. Canny woman, that.

In high school, I remember being lost in a white-out as I crossed a parking lot on the way to school. That's right: there was no snow day for us. Another time, I remember having to crawl up an ice-slicked rise on the way to school. Again: no snow day.

As an adult, when I was working, I hated winter. It largely meant short, dark days, treacherous road conditions, and freezing at bus stops. As a young mother, I hated the bundling and unbundling the kids, and the puddles of melted snow in the hall that I inevitably stepped in with my stockinged feet. I fretted that my kids would end up with frostbite if they didn't come in when they started to get cold. I worried that I was a bad mother for not wanting to be out in the snow with them rather than enjoying a little peace and quiet while they had a riot outside.

But the biggest difference in my reflections on winter in the '70s and my experience of winter now is that of child vs adult. As a child, winter just meant a different kind of play: bundled up, short bursts separated by hints of frostbite. As a retiree, it means keeping an all-day fire going in the fireplace, and wearing layers of high-tech fabrics when I go out to walk the dog.

It's almost full-circle.

Today's post was inspired by a link a friend recently shared: Snowstorms in the 70s vs Today. It's worth a read!


  1. I used to be amazed at how long my kids could stay out in the cold. But as I huffed and puffed up a sledding hill for the 28th time the other day, I realized they don't get cold because they NEVER stop moving!! LOL
    I had two choices: freeze, or join them. My back and hips are telling me today, that sledding for 2 hours was perhaps the wrong choice. ha.

    1. Keeping moving is the key to staying warm, for sure. When I was a kid, being cold barely even slowed me down.


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