Sunday, January 29, 2012
The Importance of Memory - Snow and Sledding and Such
I was emailing back and forth with someone I love very much this week. She is in late adulthood and told me something that brought tears to my eyes. She was telling me about the weather up north and then added, “I used to love playing in the snow.” I could feel her nostalgia, her joy at the memory. And it made me wonder, what were my favorite memories of snow? I do live in Florida, by choice, right? But within seconds, memories were flooding. I remember my first winter in Chicago. I had been living in Florida for so long, snow was again magic for me. One night, we walked out from the high rise to go see a movie. The snow was blanketing the block. You know that block, full of shops, lit up in the darkness, with the old fashioned movie theatre in the middle. The snow fell on us in giant, floating flakes. I was madly in love. It was one of the best moments of my life.
Of course, then there was this kid in my neighborhood when I was little. I grew up about an hour and a half north of NYC. In the mid-Hudson valley. What does that mean? Mountains, hills, craggy rocks, and streams. Everywhere. As kids, we were always searching for a new hill we could hit in our neighborhood for sleigh riding. For some reason, we called it sleigh riding, not sledding. So, we found this hill, nestled between a few people’s properties. Kind of like what you would call a greenway now. It was steep and of course, you could opt to go over this rock that jutted out of the hill (covered in snow and topped with a layer of ice), which would give you some air on the way down. At the bottom was, yes, a frozen stream. This means at the end of your ride you get a boost of momentum. Fantastic. However, there was also a chain link fence backing up to someone’s land. So, as you can guess, the goal was to get the best ride possible while stopping short of the fence. We would stand at the top of the hill watching each other go down. Here’s the thing. From the top, that chain link fence was just out of sight.
So, here comes this kid. And he’s a daredevil. You know the type. Takes a running start onto the sled every time. And yes, sometimes he would miss the sled and go down half on, legs flailing, or roll down the hill without it. Hysterical. So, you know when he actually got it right and went down ON the sled, we were all thinking about that chain link fence. He flies down, we see him hit the ice and hear that smooth sound as he glides out of sight. And then, a giant smack and rattle as he hits the fence. We all hold our breath in the silent aftermath. And then we hear it. His deep throated laughter. We laughed till we fell down in the snow. He did it over and over that day, even inspired some of us to “go for the fence.” There’s no moral here, no tale of class clowns or taking chances (the fence really didn’t feel good when you hit it, by the way… although it did make you laugh).
But I can tell you this; I am feeling pretty good as I write. Pretty happy. It’s amazing what a memory can do, it lights up our limbic system, our emotion center in the brain, and we can not only remember, but we feel the moment all over again. So, here is what I am thinking. Do you have a snow story? A happy memory? Something you would like to share? Post it in the comments section and share with all of us… for those of us who are entering the “dog days” of winter, when it starts to feel more miserable than magic, and also for all of us who live far from the snow and miss the crunch of it under our feet and the taste of it on our tongues.