The storm battering New York City and much of the East Coast today is exactly the kind of snowstorm I yearned for as a kid growing up in the Bronx.
We didn’t get a lot of snow often, but when we did, it was cause for jubilation.
I had gotten a Red Flyer wooden sled with metal blades (with a wooden arm to steer!) from my cousins when they moved from New York to Germany in the late 1960s and this thing was my beloved Rosebud.
I would go to the steepest hill in Parkchester, which was near the playground in the East and several stairways removed from the back of Oval Drug.
I would get there early, ahead of the other kids.
Dressed in long johns, snowpants when I was younger and later jeans (or dungarees as they were known then), rubber boots pulled over shoes with Wonder Bread plastic bags over them (the bags helped make getting the shoes on easier), hat, a green scarf made by my cousin and gloves, and I would lose myself in the endless traipsing up and down the hill.
Now the trick was not to kill yourself.
Parkchester had these metal poles that connected chains to mark off grassy areas where you were not permitted. During snowstorms, Parkchester security turned a blind eye to the sledders.
But if you went tearing down the hill like I did, you wanted to make damn sure you did not go head-first into one of the poles or lift your head up and get garroted by the chains.
I was the envy of the other kids, most of whom had the plastic “flying saucers” that were coming into vogue or relied on flattened large cardboard boxes they would get from the supermarket.
I’d leave after about three hours because the hill would be getting too crowded and icy.
I’d carry my sled home, undress just inside the doorway, my ass and legs pink and tingly from the cold and snow, and would then chow down on hot Farina mom would make.
When I had my paper route, I used the sled to deliver the papers. I’d wrap them in a bundle encased in plastic, strap them to the sled and drag it behind me to make my rounds.
As I got older, the snow was a different cause for excitement: the possibility of schools being closed! (It seldom happened in the 1970s. Maybe three times in total?)
But when it did, my friend John and I would go around, walking in the streets, which were deserted, and look for stranded drivers.
This was back in the day of rear-wheel drive cars, and John and I would listen for the telltale sound of tires spinning in the snow and go and lean into the back of the car to help push it out, getting a spray full of snow in our faces in the process!
The drivers were always appreciative and it was a fun way to spend the time in the outdoors.
The snow also had a unique quieting effect on the busy cacophony that was the Bronx.
As the snow would fall, especially at night, it would muffle the noise and traffic would slow.
The quiet would be punctuated only by the ching-clang-ching sound of the chains on the tires of the sanitation trucks and police cars and in the morning, the scraping of the shovels of the porters clearing the sidewalks.