Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm Memories

I'm sitting here with the wind howling outside my window trying to remember if we had storms like Sandy when I was a kid. We lived in an attached all-brick row house in Brooklyn, so I'm guessing we weren't as vulnerable as people living in the suburbs. I checked the history of hurricanes that hit New York when I was a kid, and although I recognized some of the names like Hurricanes Agnes and Connie, back then most of the information on the storm's progress and aftermath came the next day in the newspaper. Television stations didn't have reporters and cameramen out all hours of the day and night with updates every two minutes. Sometimes I think we were better off not knowing. My recollection is that our electric service wires were underground as they are in some parts of Brooklyn, so we almost never lost power. 

The storms I remember better than hurricanes are the snowstorms. It's probably a combination of my failing memory and my tendency to exaggerate, but it seems to me that winters were a lot harder then. We routinely had  three or four serious snowfalls a year, when the streets were blanketed in white and everything came to a standstill. As much as I absolutely hate snow now, that's how much I loved it as a kid. For one thing they closed the schools, every boy's fondest wish. For another, there were few cars on the streets so we were free to use our sleds without fear of being run over. Every family had a Flexible Flyer sled that had been handed down through the generations. These were not the flimsy plastic numbers around now, but solid, well made chariots of oak and steel. 

Our mothers, happy to have us out of their hair, would layer us up and shove us out the door. The meeting place was the vacant lot across the street from my house. Kids from blocks around would gather there because of the lot's enviable geographic location: it was elevated about fifteen feet above the level of the street, creating a natural hill for staging the poor kids' winter Olympics. We would pile four or five kids on a sled and push them down the hill. Sounds like fun until you realize that their route took them directly into the path of oncoming traffic! Good lookouts were a must. We also built ramps and moguls over which to ride our sleds, finally slamming to a halt in a snowbank trying to laugh with our mouths full of snow.

When we tired of sledding there were other snow-based activities like building anatomically correct snow men and women. Or we constructed snow tunnels that were fifty feet long, or elaborate forts with windows and ledges to hold the dozens of snowballs for the big battle with the fort across the street. The unwritten rule that every kid followed was no rocks packed into the middle of the snowballs. Sometimes, if things were really slow, we'd ring the bells of the old people on the block and offer to shovel their sidewalks. They showed their appreciation when Spring came around and we had to retrieve a ball from their back yards to keep the game going.  

Now, if two inches of snow are in the forecast, the weatherperson/doomsayers with their serious faces fill our television screens warning people to stay indoors until it's safe to go outside. If I had heeded that bad advice, I would have missed some of the best times of my life! 


Children's Craniofacial Association 

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