I WENT OUT to fill bird feeders and enjoy our first real snow and cold of the season. It was a time to vacillate in thought between the beauty and the work aspects of winter, and how much fun winter was when we were young. My first memories of winter were being stuffed into one of those warm but restrictive snowsuits, scratchy real wool mittens, scarves, and hats. Then wool socks and little rubber boots to finish it off. My mother was agile and happy to join in back then and she taught us to make snow angels. I think we covered the whole farm in angels, at least as far as we could get, and only had to be pulled out of the deeper snow a few times.
That was a little scary, especially to be flat on your back swooshing your arms, and not be able to turn over or to have snow cover your face. We always got rescued and sometimes the snow stuck to our eyelashes for a while. When we came inside we had the reddest little cheeks and it felt so good to get next to the intense heat of the living room wood stove. Wet boots went beside it and mittens often went on top of the stove grate. There was the smell of warm wet wool and soon the sizzle of the water as it dripped down and vaporized.
My father made us a great toy by putting a long wooden box on his old Flexible Flyer sled so we could sit in it and not fall off while someone took the sled rope and dragged us along behind. My mother did this for short trips, but it was really fun when her best friend “Aunt” Jane came up from Sharon, CT, and took us out. She loved it at our house, “at the farm,” and also loved to walk. I was the oldest and sometimes she would add my sister Dona to the sled too. We often went out on the snow-packed road across where the Taconic Parkway now goes through. It was so clear and quiet back then except for the squeak and crunch of the snow, a crow overhead, or rarely a train whistle from the old Harlem Rail Line coming out of Chatham about six miles away. A car traveling down our road was a rarity in any season so we didn’t have to worry about traffic.
As we grew a little and my father had time, he taught us to make snowmen. It had to be wet snow so it would stick together, and several of us little kids would roll the head down the slope of the lawn while he made the base. Mother made the middle. We used coal to heat our hot water so we were allowed to take two pieces from the cellar coal bin for the eyes. If he was in a thrifty mood we found a few small stones for facial features and of course sticks for arms. We couldn’t waste anything like a carrot for the nose. With so many different people involved we often had a very large bottomed snowman with a very small head. They all had character.
When I was older and stronger the best were snow horses that you could actually sit on. Another game besides making snowmen and throwing snowballs was sort of a tag game. We made a large circle in the snow and ran around it to make a good path, and then we added spokes to a round, flat center. The person who was “it” stood in the center then the fun began. You could chase or run away but you had to stay on the paths. If you fell off or ran off the path you were “it.” There were some variations of rules depending on who was playing, but whoever was tagged next got to be “it.”
We couldn’t play hide and go seek because you could be tracked in the snow to your hiding place. My mother must have been very happy to have us tired and much quieter when we came in. Sometimes we had a few chores to do like bring in some wood from the porch for the stoves. Those were fun times and very happy memories of the mid-twentieth century in the Town of Austerlitz, NY.