I recently remembered how much I liked winter when I was a kid. Although I first recalled the clothes, it wasn't about fashion. Everyone played outside. All you needed was warm, durable clothing that allowed relatively free movement. If you stayed active, you stayed warm.
Let me start out by stating I was never a skater. While most kids ice skated, my combination of poor balance, weak ankles and being fat didn't lend itself to the sport.
Sledding? Chicago-land is flat. As an adult working in the far western suburbs, I once had long-time clients come in from England. After landing at O'Hare and spending a few days in the Naperville area, my friend Emma said "Right, where are the hilly bits?"
I went sledding plenty of times thanks to my Dad, because you had to drive to get to a real hill. Do you remember those iconic metal and wood Flexible Flyer sleds? They were cool, but heavy, so you needed a good hill to enjoy them. That probably explains the evolution to a saucer sled and ultimately, a simple sheet of thin plastic. That way, you could roll it up and carry it. If you stumbled across the odd bump in the terrain, you were prepared.
Sliding? All you needed were well-worn shoes, a bit of an incline and a running start. Our grammar school was slightly higher than street level. From one entrance, there was a long sidewalk that sloped down to the street. If there was light snow in the morning, the guys would get to school early. Even though you couldn't slide down the whole sidewalk at first, it would help. When you went out again after lunch, the accumulated snow facilitated longer runs. By the time school let out, you could slide the entire length.
Skeeching? Skeeching was grabbing on to the rear bumper of a moving car and letting it pull you, your shoes or boots sliding on top of the snow-covered streets. Guys would be on the corner, wait for a car to turn onto the street, then run up behind and grab on the back. If they were good, they would hold on the entire block. Skeeching was for the big kids, those in eighth grade or high school.
My mom hated skeeching with a passion and began a verbal crusade against it. By fourth grade, she had me convinced that if I ever tried, I would either get my skull crushed or lose a leg (maimed at a minimum). I figured I could wait.
One day after school, a bunch of us fourth and fifth graders got ambushed by a bunch of big kids. It was a surprise attack snowball fight. If they were from your block, they had street rights to pick on you. They were testing you, and you naturally wanted their approval. I held my own in the snowball fight, and got attention for nailing a big kid square on the head.
Soon after, I came upon a group of these big kids on the corner of our street. They were throwing snow balls at passing cars, and invited me to join in. I couldn't believe it! But it was harder than it looked, and I kept missing. One of the kids explained to me the concept of "leading the car", throwing to where it was going to be, not where it was. He said if I hit one, they might even take me skeeching. Even though I really didn't want to, I couldn't admit that.
On my third attempt, I got lucky. I didn't lead the car enough, but it slowed down, and the snowball landed on the back windshield. Everyone cheered! I noticed the car make a turn and pull into a driveway on the other side of the street. A man quickly got out of the car and started to cross, coming right at us.
"Who threw that snowball?" he demanded. All the big kids turned and pointed at me, with big grins on their faces.
Be tough, I thought.
But this man was large, well over six feet and plenty angry. He tore into me, yelling about how I could have caused an accident, the windshield may be cracked, etc. He demanded my name and address. I was holding up pretty well until I noticed something weird. I realized he had a fake eye. It didn't move like the other eye, and it freaked me out. I cracked and started to shake, holding back tears. The man saw I was scared, calmed down and let me go. Although I never burst out crying, I showed fear, and that was plenty. The big kids never offered to take me skeeching again.
Like I said, I could wait.