The Good Old Days

by Laura Rittenhouse

We all do it, yearn for the good old days. Our longings are as varied as vistas from mountain peaks. My cousin, for example, would love to be the starting quarterback in high school for the rest of his life. Me, I just want to go back to the innocent time when a simple blanket of snow across my yard brought unrestrained joy.

I remember the butterflies a forecast of snow would conjure in my stomach. The holy grail of winter, a snow day, might greet me in the morning! If the snow started falling before bedtime, I’d beg to be let outside where I’d chase snowflakes until my father’s booming voice hauled me in. I’d count the flakes as they landed on my tongue – some fell too lightly for me to feel, but if I saw them drift on target, they counted. My sister never beat me; she didn’t have the patience to stand with her head thrown back waiting for the little sparkles to alight.

At night, nestled deep in my blankets, I’d plan ways to spend the next day. In the morning, I’d wake before my alarm and fling back the curtains in my bedroom. I have to admit I was disappointed more often than not, but on those glorious days when the grass was hidden by a blanket of white I’d turn on my radio, praying to my oft-neglected god for school to be cancelled.

When I close my eyes, I can still feel the cold crunch of snow through the rubber soles of my boots. I can smell the crispness of the frozen water. I can see the glare of the white land, shining even on cloudy days. My strongest memory is of one morning with my sister making the best snowman anyone had ever seen. We only had him built up to his shoulders when Mom announced lunch. We begged for, and received, leniency. One giddy hour later, my sister unwound her new, red scarf and wrapped it around the neck of our creation, proclaiming him finished.

As we gobbled our feast of grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate, we proudly surveyed our snowman sitting happily in his white sea. We watched fascinated as a sudden gust of wind caught the scarf, dragging it to the ground, a splash of red thrown across the front yard. We laughed in delight at the beauty of it all. That night was crowned with dreams of white fields and rolling, jolly snowmen.

Yes, I’d give anything for the innocent pleasure of a pure, white, snow day. But those good old days seem a world away to me. It’s hard to believe it’s only been two years since I last reveled in the anticipation of snow. A Saturday’s snowy forecast had excited my husband in a way that took me back to my childhood. I told Michael about my good-old-days dream and he laughed. He confessed that if he could turn back the clock, he’d return to college – snow or no – skipping classes and living off his father. I mocked him for possessing a soul devoid of all poetry and beauty. He laughed louder, pinching my cheeks as if I were a little girl, and promised that if the yard was blanketed with snow in the morning, he’d wear my red scarf in honor of my snowman of old.

The morning arrived and Michael sprang from bed, throwing wide the curtains to a vision of glittering snow. Grabbing his tattered, white bathrobe, he rushed down the hall, determined to rescue the daily newspaper from the snowdrifts along our front curb. I dawdled after him to put on the coffee, pausing by the front window to enjoy the clean magnificence of the view. Michael was bending down to retrieve the paper, my bright red scarf wound playfully around his neck. I smiled in anticipation of the fun-filled snow day we were about to share. The smile froze on my face when I saw the truck sliding out of control on the icy road. Michael lifted his head just before the impact.

Yes, I’d give anything for thoughts of snow to trigger visions of white rather than a splash of red thrown across the front yard.

© Laura Rittenhouse 2010