Column: Line Drives — First snow stirs up childhood memories

[This is my column in today’s issue of The Commercial Review.]

I missed the first snow.

The white, fluffy stuff generally signifies the beginning of my second-favorite season, and I didn’t even get to enjoy it.

I take great delight when the temperatures begin to fall this time of year, and the rain turns to snow.

My fondness for winter was only solidified after I graduated high school and went to college in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at Michigan Technological University.

Unfortunately, I was only there for one true winter season, and it snowed all but one day the entire month of January.

The first snow of the 2013-14 winter brings back fond memories of my childhood, the days spent outside as often as possible with the greatest group of friends anyone could ask for.

The sports we played in the fall and summer carried over to the colder months, although some were added and others modified.

There was nothing more fun than playing tackle football in the snow.

Dressed to the gills in winter attire, complete with multiple layers under our coats and snow pants, tackling someone else with all the extra padding onto a much softer surface than the ordinary ground left us feeling fearless.

After all, we were wearing pads, they were just in the form of layered clothing.

We played smash-mouth, run it up the gut, old-time Big Ten type football. And miraculously, no one got (seriously) injured.

That fearless behavior carried over to my freshman year of college playing pick-up games with my roommates and other guys in the dorms. My roommate Jason — who could have played defensive line at the collegiate level — was the type of guy no one wanted to tackle, especially in snow.

Except me.

Since we were roughly the same stature, we were always on opposite teams. One time in particular when he got his heavy frame running, no one would tackle him.

But I did.

I ran at him full speed and did what I learned playing high school football; if you stop the legs, the ballcarrier can’t go anywhere. So I took his legs out, which he didn’t expect, and showed my teammates it wasn’t very hard to bring him down.

But back in the neighborhood days, if we got tired of playing football, we’d lace up our skates and play our own form of pond hockey on a 50-by-10 foot sheet of ice in my back yard. Compared to the rest of the neighborhood, our back yard was gigantic, and it flooded every fall with the rain and then froze as the temperatures reached the freezing point.

It’s in the back yard I learned how to be agile on ice, since we usually packed the small area with many people you had to try and skate around if you wanted to score in our makeshift goals.

Or, we would just congregate at Tyler Green’s house around the corner, where his father Jim would actually make an ice rink each year.

We usually played three-on-three with one goalie, much like half-court basketball. And that’s where I really honed my skills as a goalie.

Sadly, I never convinced my parents to let me play organized hockey, something I always wish I had done.

But one winter memory that stands out the most is the snowball fights.

One skirmish in particular included a visit from Brian, a grandson of one of the older couples that lived nearby. I never knew where he was from, but he’d come around once every few months.

We were outside having our snowball fight, throwing baseball-sized projectiles over the street at forts we set up on our respective sides, and then Brian showed up.

Wanting to join, we gave him some time to set up his own fort in his grandparents’ yard. When he entered the battle his first shot happened to be about 90 percent ice, and it hit my teammate Brittany below the eye.

Needless to say, the battle ended quickly, and Brittany’s father came out to scold Brian for throwing at his daughter’s head.

As I’ve gotten older, the winter activities have changed, but I am reminded of those fond stories with the first snowfall every season.

And until they’re just forgotten memories, they’ll be passed on to my children and grandchildren.


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