Winter like the old days

By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 03, 2013

When I stepped out the door and almost slipped down the steps, I could see that this was a real winter.

In recent years, people have talked a lot about the snow. Two or three inches and melted by mid-afternoon isn't really snow. This was snow.

My driveway had been carved out of the white stuff and wherever the shovel hadn't scraped, walls and cliff faces could be seen. Step off the path and you'd sink up to the knee. That's what I'm talking about.

The snow itself had more substance. It was dense and rich. You could sled on it without seeing grass sticking up along the trail. You could build things out of it. You could dig forts out of the banks.

I was too lazy to do much about it. My son, who's almost 12 came to me with a request earlier in the morning. Could he have his best friend over?

"Well," I said. "If people are coming over, you'd probably have to shovel the driveway so it won't be too treacherous for them coming down to the house."

He didn't get it.

"No, usually his parents just park on the road," he said.

I felt like a corrupt official being forced into asking outright for the bribe. "The deal is, you shovel the driveway, you can have your friend over."

Wesley's still new to this game, not quite off the turnip truck, but not bright enough to take a good look out the window before making the deal. "OK!" he said, happy to have his 'yes.'

I could almost sympathize with him.

I remember walking home from school in a blizzard one afternoon back in Hampden. My Dad had given me an edict that any time it snowed, I had to shovel both driveways AND a track around the side of the house to the oil tank. I must've been a little younger than Wes is now.

The snow was up above my head (at least as I remember it. I think it gets a little taller in my memory every year). I made a stab at it with the shovel. "Ker-Chunk!" Looked like a little bird had been pecking at it. I quickly did the math in my head and realized it would take me about a long as it took the glaciers to melt after the last ice age to get the driveway cleared.

My buddy Shawn from across the street asked why I was so miserable. He was this big husky kid. I said, "You try it!" and like an animal he started digging this path into the driveway. All the while, fat flakes were still falling out of the gray sky.

Wesley doesn't believe I really ever had to do anything when I was his age. He still tries to elicit sympathy.

"My jaw is frozen!" he hollered when I came out the other day. He was down at the end of the driveway fighting with the plow's leavings.

"You need a scarf," I said.

"I don't have a scarf!"

"Well, when you're done, we'll get some hot cocoa, warm you right up."

"And if my jaw turns black and falls off?" He talks so much like me it's scary.

"Well, then you'll drink it through a straw, I guess," I said.

He wanted his friend over something fierce though, so my driveway got done and better than I would have done it! When they came over they decided to play out in the snow. They threw snowballs at each other and got their Star Wars guns out. They pretended they were on the ice world Hoth, just as I did when I was their age.

There was no room on all of Hoth for little sisters though, so Samantha ended up having to settle for playing with Daddy.

She and I went sledding down the hill on the other side of the house. When I decided that wasn't quite good enough, we drove down to Mechanic Street in Rockland. Oh the snow was packed just right up there. Reminded me of going down Essex Street Hill in Bangor when I was a kid.

I would sit on the purple sled first. Then Samantha would sit in front of me with my big boots down at the head of the vehicle. She would scream all the way down the slope, but it's the happy kind of scream. Powder shot up in our faces and I was worried she would get upset like she did when she was smaller. Instead, she turned back to me, giggling with white flakes in her eyelashes like a fairy princess.

When we were thoroughly cold, it was back inside for cocoa and whipped cream in front of the Christmas tree. Slowly our red cheeks and noses warmed up.

And despite my son's pessimism, nothing turned black and fell off.

Daniel Dunkle is news editor for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife and two children. Email him at or follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.

Comments (2)
Posted by: RUTH ROWLING MAXFIELD | Jan 04, 2013 17:08

Nice!  Growing up in the North End. . . . we were fortunate to often have two steep "hills" closed to traffic so we could go sledding . . . . Warren St.  from  North Main down to Main . . . and the steepest of the two "Lime Company Hills" . . . . . the one just north of the former Jordan's Store. . . . going clear down to the harbor edge.  In more recent years I have taken my "grandbrats"  to the marvelous hill on Mechanic St.  Wowsers!  Had to try that one myself!!!!  Yeaaaaaaaaaaa to Rockland for continuing to provide sledding opportunities!!


Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 04, 2013 05:52

Building positive family memories; as you have from Hampden. Nice story. We have been spoiled the last few years. This is a reminder of what a Maine Winter really is; global warming and all. :) Thanx.


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