Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow Day

We woke up early on snowy days in the hopes that we would hear “No school, all schools Marlborough...” from the hi-fi radio in the living room. With bated breath and crossed fingers, we endured the lineup of closed schools in alphabetical order, “Acton...Berlin... Bolton... Grafton... Hopkinton... Hudson...and finally – at last, Marlborough! The snow had already left an eerie pale light in the rooms of our house, but the day suddenly opened up before us with endless possibilities that didn't include buses, teachers, and homework. In Marlborough in the 60's, there were only three major television channels and each one had to be turned by hand after getting up off the couch, and taking a long walk across the floor to the other end of the room. Sometimes, when the wind blew just right, our old black and white TV could pick up The Uncle Gus Show in distant Manchester. These were years long before texting, cable television, DVR's or for that matter, DVD's, and Marlborough children had to create their own entertainment and fun.

And we didn't suffer from lack of it. Marlborough had many skating ponds and bogs and ice skates and hockey sticks were annual Christmas gifts, along with “flying saucers”, sleds, mittens and helmets. Those helmets were not the hard hat type but scratchy knitted head gear made by our grandmother or bought at Golden's or Shopper's World. Helmets were probably the least favorite gift but they were welcome on the small hill and valley on our street which made for excellent sledding. Our mother gave us what was left of the Christmas dinner candles to scrape across the blades of our sleds with the idea that the wax would make them faster. Whether it worked or not is unclear but we did have a few fast rides with bumps that left us lying on the hard snow in hysterics only to climb yet again to the top, arriving breathless, our legs dragging as though we were walking through water. There was no leash law so our golden retriever chased us up and down those hills barking and panting, with frozen clumps of snow clinging to her fur. No one bothered about that because when we returned home, we just peeled off the wet layers in the basement, watched the dog shake off the ice and snow, and ran upstairs; there was hot chocolate to make and it didn't come from an envelope of powder but was made from milk and cocoa and stirred forever on top of the stove.

When the weather was too rough for skating or sledding, we spent time indoors reading books. There were long lazy hours with large fairy tale picture books, or the entire collection of the pictorial encyclopedia our grandparents bought for us one volume at a time. We read classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Hans Brinker, Black Beauty, or The Swiss Family Robinson. Invariably our reading would fuel our imaginations and we would find ourselves making forts and tunnels with old sheets and cushions from the couch. Sometimes Mom would let us have our lunch in a dark tunnel lit only by resting dueling flashlights. These were not just forts and lean-to's, they were Fort Ticonderoga or the hollows of Pompeii. We played endless card games; Monopoly, checkers and although tempers flared, we knew we were all we had so we recovered quickly and moved on to making scrapbooks from Christmas cards or painting-by-number. If Dad were home too, we had a fire and roasted marshmallows with long branches one of us was brave enough to head out to scavenge. We would watch our hero make deep halting footsteps in crusty snow to the grove of trees separating our house from the back neighbor and return triumphantly with long sticks clenched tightly in frozen mittens. Later, as the fire made us drowsy, we waited, staring out at the hushed white world. And we dreamed.

After an early supper, we gathered around the old black and white TV again and when it began to look like we wouldn't be getting two snow days in a row, we fought about which of the three channels to watch before bed. If we were very lucky, and the wind was blowing just right, we would catch the end of Uncle Gus up far away, in Manchester.


  1. Oh, yes, I remember it well. Thanks for bringing it back to memory. Do you remember at the stroke of midnight the National Anthem would be recorded with the flag waving and then the TV stations would be shut down for the night.