Images from A Christmas Card

Falling through the universe at the speed of life

By David Glenn Cox

I hope everyone’s Christmas went well; you only get one. California got a massive snowstorm in the mountains and must be convinced by now of Santa’s benevolence. That’s just what they wanted, after consecutive years of drought. Ten feet of snow in some places AKA just what the doctor ordered to help fill depleted reservoirs. And you can’t buy it stores, I can almost see Gavin Newsom running through the snowy streets yelling, “Merry Christmas Bedford Falls!”

Climate change saves the day.  You hit on a slot machine, just as you are running out of quarters. Allowing you to continue, as if you weren’t losing and almost out of money. I was living outside of Atlanta, back around the millennium. Most of Atlanta’s drinking water came from Lake Lanier. A large TVA Lake constructed during the Great Depression. We had two consecutive years of drought, leaving the lake in a record low condition, much like California.

Experts forecast that it could take as long as a decade to refill the lake. Then, the following year, a hurricane came inland and headed for Lake Lanier like it had a ticket. The lake was refilled to the brim and life went on as normal. That was lucky, how often are you going to get that lucky? To hit the lottery the day after being laid off.

That’s climate change or better yet, climate instability. California might get twenty feet of snow in the mountains next year, or they might get nothing. When I was a kid growing up in Chicago with a paper route, you could depend on winter. Chicago winters were snowy, long, and miserable. There would be snow on the ground by sometimes Halloween, same snow still there in March. We would take our hockey sticks and skates and climb through a hole in the golf course fence. To play water hazard hockey in the sub-zero temperatures, on our own private ice rink.

There was also a community ice rink in the park, flooded every fall by the volunteer fire department. I don’t imagine they do that anymore. Kind of silly without consistent freezing temperatures. It’s 38 degrees this morning in Chicago and the pond’s not going to freeze. We used to bring our ice skates to school, so we could ice skate after school, without going home. It is as unfathomable to me, as kid pushing a hoop with a stick in a Currier and Ive’s Christmas Card.   

I can handle the technological changes, (Not Really) but I’m distressed over the climatic change. We played baseball all summer, football in the fall and hockey all winter. Despite later living in suburban Atlanta, I took my kids to the indoor ice rink and taught them how to skate. Never realizing how this was becoming a fringe activity, like bowling or laser tag.

One year, after a large snow fall. The kids on the other side of the street began to erect snow fortifications. Obviously, this was meant to provoke hostilities, so our side of the street began building our own fortifications. Massive structures with features and ornate decorations, involving a dozen or more kids. We began to stockpile ammunition with hundreds of prepared snowballs. Then someone yelled go, and the battle was on. Sharp and bitter confrontations with massive and complete destruction of both snow forts, expending all ammunition and two hours of labor, in about maybe a minute and a half.

We had gotten a new dog one year, who had never seen snow before. He was too frightened to go into the back yard, because I’d built a snow man. We laughed until we cried because the dog had real problem with Frosty. He would growl and creep up near the snowman on his haunches ready to attack and then bolt away, like the snowman had just jumped for him, barking frantically. The dog would get up occasionally, while in the house and go look out the sliding glass doors, just to see if  the snowman was still there taunting him. Finally, my mother asked, which did I like more the snowman or the dog? I knocked over the snowman in the name of family peace and man’s best friend.

There was a hobby shop owner near us who had developed a racket. He had garbage cans filled with kids used hockey skates. For three dollars and your old skates, you could pick out a new pair from the trash cans to fit you for this coming year. Then next year, do all over it again.

This was our social laboratory; the skating rink was where you met your little girlfriend, or went looking for a little girlfriend. And it’s all gone now, I imagine children ask their parents, “ why do they call it a warming house? Ice skating outside? Really? What’s crack the whip?”

At 13, I delivered ninety newspapers in suburban Chicago winters, when it was 15 degrees below zero. But only 9 below by Lake Michigan, but I wasn’t by Lake Michigan. It was 38 degrees at five in the morning this morning in Chicago, there are no outside skating rinks. The toboggan slides in Palos Park, closed years ago. Nobody wants a sled for Christmas anymore, as obsolete as a kid rolling a hoop with a stick.

It is disconcerting for me, especially this time of year. To see the place where I grew up and the buildings that are all still there, while the winter’s are gone. Everyone in Chicago had their favorite blown over by the wind story or slipped and fell on the ice. I took a header in grade school, sliding down the steps on the ice. I felt stupid, until I got to nurse’s office. There were three other kids that had done the same thing plus, one more after me. The nurse was quickly running out of ice packs. Note to Janitor; please salt the steps ASAP!

My father offered to give me a ride to school one day,  if I hurried. I hurried, but we couldn’t get the passenger side car door open, because it was frozen shut. As I held the button, my father kicked the door from the inside until it finally popped open. But the door was still frozen and now would not latch shut. My father tied it shut with a piece of rope, until the car warmed up and began to function properly.

That world is all gone, obsolete, shadows and images that live only in memory. And those too shall pass away soon enough and become legend and forgotten lore. Images from a Christmas card, of kids riding on their sleds, building a snowman or ice skating on the pond. Antiquated activities, like a boy rolling a hoop with a stick.

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