Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lessons from the Snow

Growing up on 31 Lockwood Avenue, I learned innumerable life lessons; some learned through inculcation, others through careful observation, and others still by having failed to do something right.*

The hill I grew up on was relatively steep, and we lived on the inside of the curve.  There was a very deep ditch next to the road, and across the street was a very large yucca plant.

Our hill always iced over.  Always.  If we got snow, the road iced, and the snow would cover it with a light dusting of white on top.  Made for rocky sledding, but....

...it was seriously treacherous for vehicles.  Every year, Dad would go out and help some hapless idiot who didn't realize that the road was icy, and who ended up lodged in our ditch for the duration.  The only thing worse than sliding out of control into the ditch on our side of the road was to slide out of control, hitting the perfectly innocent-looking yucca plant across the street.  And the three tons of
boulders that the yucca was hiding. More than one axle was destroyed by hitting that poor yucca plant. We had snowy Greenville's version of Scylla and Charybdis.

Lesson #1.  On snowy downhill, make sure you know where you are going to bail to when you lose control.

In the rare instance where we had enough snow to do it, we would sled down the hill, gaining as much speed as we could, rocketing down, absorbing the jarring bumpy ride that resulted from an icy substrate, trying to make the curve.

And at least once, failing.

Just downhill from the yucca plant was a tree that I didn't bail early enough to avoid.  And my night came to an early concussed close when I knocked the noggin.

Lesson #2. On snowy downhill, make sure you know where you are going to bail to when you lose control.

As I mentioned, not all of the lessons were learned by careful observation.

Not mine.  But this is what it looked like.
Every snow day, we'd pull out the sleds, rub a candle over the runners, and hit the hill.  We had a Flexible Flyer - to this day, I have never seen a better sled.  It was the best in town, and we loved that sled. 

One year, I went inside to get warmed and hot-chocolated, and came back to find that my sled was gone.   I was horrified and terrified.  It was very irresponsible of me to leave the family sled out where it could be stolen.  And I was scared that Dad would be mad.

But he wasn't. 

But the next time it snowed, I didn't have a sled.  It was terrible, knowing that I was missing out on the sledding, and worse, that I was responsible.  I was making other plans - baking pan plans, truth be known. 

Dad had other ideas.  He took me by the hand, and walked around the neighborhood until he found the only Flexible Flyer around.  And my 6'4" dad simply picked up the sled and started to walk away, leaving a protesting and very upset kid in his wake.  "That's my BROTHER'S sled!  You can't take that!"

Dad turned, giving the kid the fierce look I had expected when I lost the sled, and made the kid (who I knew to be a pretty rough-and-tumble bully) back up a step. 

Or two. 

Maybe three. 

"Do you see that orange dot spray painted on the metal?" (One step forward, matched by three bully steps backwards).  "I painted that ten years ago so that I could identify my sled in case it was stolen.  If your BROTHER has a problem with it, let him come see me.  I live right there, in that house."

And we walked off, hand in hand, Flexible Flyer in tow. 

That day taught me a number of lessons:

Lesson #3: Mark your stuff
Lesson #4: Dad's hand is the biggest confidence booster in the world
Lesson #5: When you are right, and backed by superior force, even the neighborhood thief and bully will back down.

I rarely have occasion to use my dad's fierce look.  But when I do, I smile when I think back to that little boy, surprised that he was not in trouble, impressed with the amazing authority of his dad, and ineffably happy that the year's sledding was not lost.

*One of the odder ones life's lessons learned from that time is that the register on a vent is not fragile; taking the floor vent off to retrieve your grandfather's silver dollar is probably OK.  I'm going to go back some day and ask the current owners for permission to remove the vent and retrieve it....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ha, ha, ha!! Loved this one!