It’s here: Winter Storm Juno has placed New York City under a thick blanket of cold fluff. The streets are empty, businesses are shut down, and as I write this I can hear the harsh, wince-inducing scrape of a snow plow making its way past my building.
It began with a whimper yesterday: tiny little flakes swirling slowly outside my window like a snow globe. But by mid afternoon, the wind picked up and all I could see was a horizontal stream of white on the other side of the glass.
My fellow New Yorkers were out and about draining the local grocery stores of supplies, cursing and railing against an event that was destined to make life a pain-in-the-ass, on so many levels, for the next few days.
I work out of my home and less concerned about having to brave the elements, I just prayed that I wouldn’t have to suffer through a boiler breakdown (it’s happened before) or a power outage. A deli at the base of my building, while a bit picked over, stayed open during the worst of Hurricane Sandy and I assumed that I wouldn’t go hungry.
What nagged at me was the feeling that I should go outside and photograph the City in the snow. We’ve barely had any of the white stuff to speak of this winter and it seemed like a missed opportunity if I didn’t at least try, even though I have come to hate the cold.
With only an hour to spare from work, I grabbed my camera and headed outside, bundled like the Michelin man and ready to jump into the fray.
I found myself in Riverside Park, a block or so west from my house. Two little boys wearing matching striped coats were jumping in the snow as if stomping out a fire. I’m guessing the oldest was 6 or 7, the youngest perhaps 4 or 5.
Laughing, they ran around a tree then abruptly fell backwards to make haphazard snow angels before popping up seconds later to start the cycle all over again.
Their mother walked behind them, dragging an orange, toboggan-like sled. The little ones raced to a small hill a few hundred feet away. They’d been waiting for the snow; it was obvious. The City was bracing for Snowmageddon—transportation shut downs, electrical outages, food shortages—but for them it meant flying down a hill at breakneck speed, and they couldn’t wait.
The smaller of the two boys, his little legs unable to navigate the accumulation, would face plant twice before catching up to his more nimble elder, his tongue stretching to his right cheek to catch the snow dripping off his face as he ran.
At the top of the hill the two could barely wait for their mother to arrive with their chariot, their small bodies vibrating with anticipation, and within seconds of the sled hitting the snow they piled on and sailed down the slope together.
When they hit the bottom the larger boy jumped up before the sled came to a full stop. The smaller child stayed put, positioning himself, legs crossed, at the back of the toboggan—apparently there was a plan. Big brother was going to pull the younger back up the hill. It was a noble pursuit. It was not meant to be…
At first it was easy, the sled glided easily until it hit the edge of the slope and they came to an abrupt halt. The older boy wrapped the rope from the toboggan around his waist and walked forward, but his brother’s weight quickly brought him to his knees, but he did not waver. He crawled, dragging the sled inch-by-inch behind him. Slowly they climbed, fell back and then gained ground once again—the younger of the two patiently enjoyed the lift.
As the slope’s angle increased the older boy stood up and turned around. He hesitated for a moment panting. He brought the rope from his middle and lifted it high towards his chest forcing the sled into a wheelie.
He had a new plan.
He grinned and then promptly dumped his brother backwards into the snow and raced up the hill. The little one laid sprawled out on his back, his feet up in the air like a dead cockroach.
Moments later, big brother was triumphantly sailing down the hill backwards, passing his sibling trudging up the hill on his way. I watched as the ejected youth made his way to where his mother stood. I felt bad for him. He was probably cold and sad and feeling left behind. His brother was sledding without him. When he reached her he dropped to his knees. Was he crying? Was he defeated?
No. He was elated. It was snowing. He was playing. All was good in the world.
…..I forgot how easy it was to have fun when you’re a kid.