My husband can’t understand why I don’t enjoy playing in the snow. I’m forty-three, and I will now go sledding for a bit with my own kids. I have waterproof North Face boots and a ski coat that actually fits and comes complete with an avalanche alert GPS sewn somewhere inside (laughable because I am afraid of chairlifts, let alone back country skiing where avalanches happen). As a kid, it was hand-me-down central, sleeves were too short, mittens were knitted yarn, snow got to me everywhere I turned, and I hated it.
A significant factor in my so-so attitude toward snow-play is that I grew up with eight cousins as my neighbors. Six of them were boys who loved snow, and they are older than I. When all of the cousins got together at my grandparents’ house, also neighbors of ours, there were seventeen grandchildren running around. Add snow, and snow balls, and you can imagine why I have little desire to get chunks of ice caking my wrists in the short sleeves, an ice ball or two in the face, and the wind knocked out of me while sledding because someone yells, “Geronimo!” and we all go a-tumble off the toboggan.
Having cousins as our neighbors sounds very Norman Rockwell. In truth, there were some wonderful parts of having family right next door, but it also meant an extended family experience 24/7. You know when you spend holidays with extended family sometimes and then a sigh of relief escapes you when you get in the car to leave? There was little reprieve when all the family members knew everyone else’s business.
Not quite the six-acre waterfront Kennedy Compound on Cape Cod, “Pennoyer Corner” spans about four acres covering the corner of Heritage Hill Road and Parade Hill Road in New Canaan, CT. Over time, each set of aunts & uncles sold off their property, and after my mother and grandmother passed away (not the squirrel-shooting one but the meat and potatoes one who pronounced bottle as bott-uhl…she always made meat and potatoes, always), the only one left owning a corner of the compound was my father, who decided to retire elsewhere. Pennoyer Corner is still there, and although mature trees have been planted, paint colors have changed, and a few fences were built by non-Pennoyers, there is still that area of common lawn where all of the properties meet in the middle where we went sledding, built snowmen, and assailed each other with snowballs.
A clear memory of being in the snow as a kid was when one older cousin, Kippy, Chris as an adult, nailed me in the eye with an ice ball. It was probably unintentional, but he did play baseball. Either his perfect aim or his wild pitching sent me crying into the house. I didn’t have my glasses yet, so I must have been in second or third grade. I just recall running inside and my parents asking what happened because of course when playing with family in the middle of all of our yards, there was no need for parental supervision. What could possibly go wrong with a dozen kids of varying ages, snowballs, and no supervision? I just have memories of being cold and not feeling well, and it’s taken becoming a mother to get me somewhat into playing in the snow again. I go sledding, I make the hot chocolate, and I make sure my kids are warm and bundled. I bought snow pants for myself two years ago, and my husband got all excited.
“I’m going to get you to try skiing again! You got snow pants!”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” I tell him. “I just want to be warm when I get the mail in the winter.”