Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

February 16, 2014

Snow days punctuated by fun, excitement and an occasional hazard

— — Closing my eyes, I see green grass, lightning bugs dotting the dusk and fawns meandering across the lawn. Taking a sip of sweet, iced tea, I smell the fragrance of peonies gently swaying in twilight’s breeze. The sunset is pink-orange framed against a blue sky, and all is right with the world.

Regrettably, the eyes must open, and all I see around me is white snow. It is covering the trees, the yard, the cars and the road. The landscape appears frozen and barren — kind of like our souls as we near the end of a long, cold winter.

lll

Growing up, snow days were filled with fun and laughter. After inhaling a breakfast of French toast, eggs, biscuits and gravy, we would layer on the clothing and head outside for a day of play.

We would attempt to build snowmen and engage in snowball battles. But the real excitement began when we pulled out the sleds. They were always orange and made of cheap plastic, but they would fly in the proper wintry conditions.

With grudging determination, my brothers, sisters and I would haul our sleds to the topmost point of the backyard — the place where grass met forest and the incline was steep and high. Then, one by one, we would plop into our sleds and hold on tight for the wildest of rides.

Looking back, it’s amazing one of us didn’t become seriously injured — or worse. The terrain was high, slick and dotted with an occasional tree. Yet we navigated it with the skill of a German Autobahn driver.

lll

The one thing scarier than the sled course was our driveway. It was one-lane, long, steep and curvy. On one side was a ditch; on the other, a precarious high drop-off to the Bluestone River. When out-of-town friends or family members remarked on the scary nature of the road, we had a ready phrase to reassure them: “Don’t worry. If you go off the edge a tree will probably stop you before you hit the river.”

Strangely enough, the words were true. On many occasions, cars and trucks slipped off the roadside while drivers attempted to navigate the snow-covered terrain. And, usually, they would only go 10 to 20 feet or so before being blocked by a sturdy oak or pine. When this occurred, Dad would grab the cumalongs from the garage and we would spend the next hour or two wresting the vehicle from over the embankment and placing it rightfully back on the road. Chains would then be put on tires, cinders scattered and, eventually, the car would make it up the drive.

Although pretty precarious situations, we didn’t view them as such. It was just a part of one’s life, living in the heart of Appalachia during winter.

lll

While snowfalls and snow days could vary, there was one constant — hot chocolate.

It was never purchased at a drive-through or zapped in a microwave oven. Instead, Mom stirred the cocoa lovingly as it simmered on the stove.

Hearing the sound of our boots stomping on concrete at the basement door, Mom would pour the hot chocolate into mugs and top it with mini marshmallows. By the time we reached the kitchen, the aroma was wafting in the air.

For the next hour, we would laugh, joke and tell tall tales of sledding adventures and other winter excitement.

lll

It’s Thursday morning and I should be at work. Instead, I am staring at 14-plus inches of snow covering the landscape around my house. It’s the house I grew up in, and the long, steep, narrow driveway now appears to be a deathtrap.

Perhaps showing my age, I don’t want to chance fate by relying on a tree to save me from plummeting into the Bluestone if I slide off the ice-covered tracks.

I take a snow day, and we begin digging out.

lll

I feel like I should be making hot chocolate, but I have no Hershey’s Cocoa or mini marshmallows in the pantry. And I don’t think this would be a veterinarian approved treat for my four-legged babies.

We do spend much of the day outside, and I find myself wishing there was a plastic, orange sled in the basement waiting for an exhilarating ride.

The snowball fights of long-ago have morphed into games of snowball fetch. But, soon, the dogs become tired.

The snow is up to my knees and up to their flanks. I take pity and we head back inside.

Warming up in front of the radiator, I close my eyes and think of crocus, tulips and Easter shoes. Spring will arrive — eventually. And not a moment too soon.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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