Posted by: johnhourihan | December 1, 2012

Back when we loved snow


Standing outside my home and watching the blue jays feed while the snow falls gently around them, I couldn’t remember why I had hated the snow for so

Taken in my backyard Tuesday

This blog isn’t just for me. It isfor you too

long.
Then I remembered there was a time before the  word “slush” mucked up the gutters of Main Street, and a time when I learned to pay close attention to the phrase “steer in the direction of the skid.”
One of the last times I remember loving snow, before last year, the initial year of my retirement, was when, as a boy, I had taken on a morning Worcester Telegram paper route.
We had moved again. We moved a lot. Renting with seven children was not an easy task back when landlords could just say no. You had to find a really good person who had an apartment  for rent and the patience of a nun.
This time we rented on the third floor of a home owned by the family of the Sullivan sisters.
At 13 it wasn’t wasted on me that the Sullivan sisters were two of the most beautiful dark Irish girls in the school. Some said it was the Glennons, and I’m sure some thought it was my sisters, but for Danny and my money it was the Sullivans. Then after months of looking for them, but not seeing them, it dawned on me that they didn’t live here.
It was from this new home on Winter Street that I began my daily 4 a.m. trek to a mid-town paper pick-up point on Central Street about a half-mile away.
I loved it when I would step outside to find it had snowed.
There was something special about trudging through knee deep new powdered snow, past the school I would be attending in a few hours, and then turning up Main Street.
In 1959, I had just spent a 75-degree, sunny Christmas in Phoenix, Arizona and I was happy to be back where I belonged, at 41.58 degrees north, 73.41 degrees west, in Milford, Massachusetts.
This early in the morning none of the stores were fully open but were just beginning to be born. Each emanated light a slightly different hue from the one next to it – yellow from Kennedy‘s Butter and Egg, white (fluorescent) from the electric company, and bluish from Mosher‘s Hobby Shop. The color would continue across the drifts to the middle of the street, like shadows of light on the darker snow.
As I took a right and headed up Main Street, the heart and soul of our town, I walked nearly in the middle of the empty thoroughfare. It was the only time of day you could do this, and since I seldom saw anyone else outside at these wintry times, I realized I was probably the only one in town who got to watch, from the middle of the street, the snow swirling in the dim Christmas lights strung across from telephone pole to telephone pole. This sight was the ultimate coincidence since someone would have to have forgotten to turn off the multi-colored lights. It only happened twice.
Mr. Charest would wave as I passed Chez Vous donut shop. And Mr. Trotta was always visible at Ted’s Diner having his own coffee before opening , but it was only after picking up my papers and walking straight up to Congress Street that I remember the feelings of belonging in the snow.
It was in a backyard I cut across to get a respite from the cold wind that magically froze my breath, that a red-haired dog would join me, sort of a cross between an Irish setter and a yellow lab. I called him Angel because I didn‘t know the name the other dogs called him. He followed me, and I concocted our adventures as I walked.
Angel was a good listener.
The cognitive map of the paper route was built into both our brains, and when I would miss a stop he would climb the steps at the front door and whine at me until I dropped a paper there.
I wondered how he could cross back and forth in the powdery snow up to his muzzle in his bare feet.
He, not I, looked both ways before crossing West Street, then he would bound through the backyards until we reached Water Street. This part of the trek wasn’t as much fun since the streets were plowed now and the cars took over the road. Somewhere around the park in the center of the town, Angel would disappear into the dusk and snow and just go home, wherever that was. I guess he had just enough patience to enjoy only what he truly enjoyed.
Dogs are strange like that.
The walk back down Main was not a great part of the trip because the traffic was a growing problem and the cars had turned the road into slush. But reaching the street where I lived there was, in a friendly line, the high school, the grammar school, the convent, the church and home – all the places of safety in the world of  a student of St. Mary’s Catholic School and of someone who could appreciate living in a home belonging to the family of the Sullivan sisters.
Boys are strange like that.

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