On our drive back to small-town Cañon City from the scary-to-old-ladies enormous multi-cultural complexity known as Denver International Airport, my friend Jonna and I whiled away a bit of the time discussing the human condition (abysmal), the need for humans to jet around the world and the necessity of a place like DIA (abysmaler) and the airport itself (abymalest).
Then, that 15-minute conversational portion of the trip spent, we moved on to the weather. Snow and cold and crappy roads were covered in another 15 minutes; so we tackled current events (sequester and the Oscars are not as disparate as one might initially suppose). And then we began our reminiscing. Jonna and I go back, way back, to that mystical time of sixth grade and Mrs. Towns and the much-smaller-town of Lamar.
Keep in mind there was, in 1961, no acid rain, no Global Warming, no Three Mile Island. In Lamar, during the summer, it was safe to drink from the garden hose and stay out until the street lights came on. For those of you who might be whippersnappers in your 40s or 50s, you should know there was a time when it was actually safe to eat a Hills Bros. can full of dirt and or a Milk Bone dog biscuit on a dare. The soil was populated by ants rather than contaminated with heavy metals, and dog treats were made out of corn from the U.S. of A. instead of melamine from ports unknown.
Lamar’s winters were not particularly harsh, but still we would put on snow suits and mittens and hats all made of wool and heavy black rubber galoshes that buckled, and then, stiff-legged and lacking arm mobility, we would launch ourselves on Flexible Flyers from curb to curb across the street. Cars were so rare an occurrence that no one worried about a collision. When Penny Austin was home, we could use her driveway, which actually had a decent incline.
Jonna and I talked about all this, lingering on the memories of eating snow. Yes, Virginia, it was as safe to eat snow then as it was to eat dirt. See, in those days Siberian huskies wearing bandannas rather than collars did not outnumber the neighborhood kids. Small, yappy “gimmick dogs” (resembling my Yorkshire, I confess) had not yet been invented. “Yellow snow” was an uncoined phrase.
And in the 1950s and ‘60s we ate pristine snow by the mittenful. In fact we often chewed it right off our mittens after it had set up like white roofing tar. And by the way, if you’ve never sucked water out of a wet woolen mitten (which smells not unlike wet Siberian husky), you’ve missed a seminal moment.
But even more influential an event was everyone’s mother making Snow Ice Cream and we offspring eating it as though it was our last meal on this good earth.
The recipe? Oh, it was simple. Mom needed only her trusty Sunbeam mixer bowl of freshly fallen snow, a bit of milk and a bit of sugar. Stir, spoon and enjoy!
It was our task as kids to scoop up the snow, which we did gladly. And within minutes we would be eating our ice cream, drinking our hot chocolate with marshmallows and watching the big, fat flakes piling up in 31 flavors (vanilla, pancake syrup, brown sugar, strawberry Kool Aid, Bosco, marshmallow, raisin, cinnamon, etc.) right outside our door.
Fifty-plus years have come and gone since woolen mittens and Flexible Flyers. Another “you should know” is that the steering mechanism jammed if Flyer drivers (read: the Thomas kids) did not properly store the sled. The first run of the season would be a free-fall down Penny’s driveway and straight across the street toward the Hays’ house, where sled and rider would smack the curb with the force of a Titan missile. Sled would stop suddenly; rider would continue almost to the Hays’ front door. That I remember well.
But I also remember that once wintertime in Lamar was behind us, once the leaves had magically reappeared on the trees and the lilacs were in bloom – once the morning glories wound their way up the porch post – we would hear, off in the distance, the Siren’s song.
“Pop Goes the Weasel” could mean only one thing.
No threat. No sinister implications. No worry other than to have our nickels ready. It was summertime, and the Popsicle Man was out.
Winter bleus? Adieu, adieu! My dears, Cañon City has a cadre of trucks that play, among other catchy tunes, “Pop Goes the Weasel.” And guess what I do believe I heard last week…
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…”
Life is good, the seasons are changing and old friends are a treasure. God is on His throne.
And after the last of the snow has melted, thank You, Lord, I can’t wait to take a long, cool drink out of the hose.