Tuesday, January 11, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Winter

Don't worry..I'm not eating yellow snow (1974-ish)
I grew up in a small-ish city in northeastern Pennsylvania called Hazleton.  I've got great memories of the city and growing up in it.  Today though the crime's up and the city's down.  It's an old coal mining town and looks like a city that once had seen better days.  I loved the school system.  I loved the fact that we had sidewalks (silly me I thought sidewalks were everywhere until I joined the Army and moved away!).  And I loved the fact that we had four seasons.

I didn't realize how much I loved the four seasons until I joined the Army as well.  I lived in California, Texas and Hawaii when I served.  Needless to say Honolulu, San Antonio, and Monterey don't see much snow!  But we're talking winter here, so best to get on with it...

I have great memories of looking out the front window of the house with the snow-covered roads (before the plows would get there and the snow would turn black).  Watching the cars driving by slowly on the fresh snow was so peaceful.  It's like the world became quieter and everything just seemed more relaxed.  We had a mock-orange tree in the backyard.  Now I say "tree" but mock-orange really aren't supposed to get THAT big.  It was a "bush" gone wild.  My dad had a peat-moss/compost heap right next to the mock-orange and I'm sure that the decades of those extra nutrients seeping into it helped to create this monster bush!  During the winter the snow we would get was generally wet.  Not that dry powdery stuff.  This was heavy and great for snowballs...although crap for shoveling.  When we'd get a good heavy snow the mock-orange would get so weighed down that it's branches would bend over and touch the ground.  The result was our own personal igloo!  Seriously...it looked like we had a giant igloo in the backyard when it happened, and we would find a way in and use it as our own personal fort!  I'm amazed that tree lived through all that!

Snow never bothered me.  In fact, when it would snow, my spirits would rise.  I didn't mind shoveling at all.  My dad would complain incessantly about shoveling and the snow plows plowing him back in.  It never bothered me.  Not when I was a kid and not later when I was driving.  I love helping other people and when it would snow we'd try to shovel out some of the elderly people that lived near us as well.  I remember one time (and it is a nice memory) of my younger sister and I helping our father shovel his car out when someone got stuck trying to go up the side-street by our house and getting stuck.  It was uphill, which pretty much describes Hazleton to begin with, and he got stuck.  Spinning tires and no traction.  Having been stuck in slush down by my college and having had two strangers soak themselves to push me out always stayed with me so my sister and I went over to help him get up the hill.

It had to have looked silly.  Two teenage, petite girls walking over and offering to give his car a push.  My dad tried to stop us before walking over.  Telling us that we wouldn't be able to help, but we didn't care.  When other people see you helping, chances are someone else will stop by and help out too.  And someone did....my dad finally put down his shovel and helped us push him out of the snow.  Then we all went silently back to our own shoveling.  Things like that make you feel good inside though and I like to think that it may have turned his grumpy "I hate snow" off for five minutes.

My maternal grandparents were teachers, but pretty much everyone before them were coal miners or married to coal miners.  Knowing this now, I think of how the winter must have been a difficult time for them.  Walking to work had to have been freezing.  At least the mines were a constant temperature throughout the year so they could get a warm up...when they weren't worried about a subsidence, I suppose!

It does give you pause to think about how things were so much harder years ago, yet we still find something to complain about.  I suppose we always will.  I suppose that in 100 years our descendants will look back and think about how hard we had it!