We moved to Cassville when I was 3. We had a big white house with a wide front porch, which sat at the top of the torso of Main Street like a square white head. Summit Road extended out of town to the left, and down the hill to the right, like the two straggly stick arms of a snowman.
Behind our house was a huge baseball field and woods. There was a ravine that sloped down to railroad tracks. Upstate NY is the purveyor of real winter-time, real snow. No wimpy winters here. The powdery snow and smoking chimneys and the steeple of the little Baptist Church next door to our house seemed a little like a scene from a Christmas card.
On snowy days we bundled up in layers, and towed our sleds and saucers and toboggans to the hill by the ball field. It was thrilling as we took turns. Sometimes we went on our bellies, steering dangerously past trees and bushes. Saucers tipped and spun dizzily without direction, dumping us without dignity or warning. Toboggans packed with kids with interlocking legs went screaming off the edge of the world.
I remember the cuffs of my hand-knitted mittens studded with little balls of ice, freezing my wrists raw. Then came the inevitable crash into the burdock bushes which resulted in removing the mittens again, and with freezing fingers, picking the burrs out of my hair, my hat, and my mittens.
After a few hours, our mothers ventured out and called us home for supper. Trudging home we drank in the darkening winter sunset, gorgeous behind the trees, like smeared ripe plums crushed beneath God's heel.
The cats, Tigger, Oliver and Esmerelda, loved to curl up on the low, hot radiators in our kitchen. Sometimes we would sit there too and take our chances on burning our hineys as we pulled off our wet boots. We had a braided rug on the floor near the door where the wet boots dried and dry slippers awaited our cold toes. Clementine, our Springer Spaniel, curled up on that rug too after romping in the snow with me and my friends.
Sunday night television was wonderful: Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom". "Disney's Wonderful World of Color". We ate on TV tables in the living room on Sunday night. My mom made comfort food like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or sometimes french toast. My dad chewed a cigar after dinner.
Our couch was in front of a picture window that looked straight down Main St. I liked to kneel on it and watch the quiet, snowy street. All the approaching cars seemed to be heading right for us. Our house sat like a grand poobah seated on a throne, greeting all who entered town. At Christmas time, the twinkling colored lights on the houses of neighbors suggested a feeling of universal goodwill; a common resonance of peace on earth, good will to men, even if behind the doors spouses fought and children talked back.
It's funny how images of our childhood stand out in our minds, like scenes on video tape. I go back into those scenes with my mom and dad, now long passed away, our dog and cats, also gone, and the house we moved out of decades ago. I go into the memories where they stay sustained and sweet. I wonder if we can visit those times again in the afterlife.
The suburb where my family lives now has none of the childhood magic that I enjoyed. It's warm here, no snow. We are entrenched in the tawdry banality of franchises and shopping strips and the stink of sameness that permeates America as if by conspiracy of dullness. Little is quaint, original, or lasting. Yet sometimes I listen to my kids reminisce about their childhood, laughing and giggling about things that to me seem very plain. I realize then that wherever there is love is the best place. And that can be anywhere.
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.