Friday, May 15, 2009

Snow Fort: Sioux Falls 1961

It was winter and I was getting over the mumps. There had been a lot of snow in South Dakota and Sioux Falls was no exception. I was a little kid and the snow dropped outside--where I could not go--was monumental. Brother's and sister and neighbors went out into the remnant of the blizzard and played and I could only watch from the window. In fact, it often took my father to hold me up so that I had the best view.
Post storm and snow, my father shoveled the walks and drive (we lived in a corner house in the Hilltop neighborhood, so the yard was big and had sidewalks on two sides) and piled the snow high. And then--I don't know why and I can not ask him why--he built a snow fort. It wasn't just any snow fort, but a childhood dream snow fort. It was massive--taking up most of the yard. It had huge embankments/walls with columns of snow. It had arched entries and exits. Those entries and exits were not ground-level, but a few feet high and were made into crawl-overs and slides.
Of course, I could not play in it at first. I had to watch my brothers, sister, strange and known kids play in it at first. And my father would lift me up at the big front "Family Circus" window to watch. He held me, the middle child of five, in his arms.
It was a cold winter and things did not melt much and then I was deemed cured of the mumps and released to play in the fort. And out I went in my parka and stringed-mittens and hat and galoshes and boots (oh, the sartorial accoutrements of childhood in a cold climate!) and I ran around with everyone, slipping and sliding and fighting for the sovereignty of our snow fort. It was great fun . . . I honestly don't recall all that we did: snowball fights, war games, dollhouse/adventure fantasies? But it was fun. (Though I also recall a dog had shit upon one of the slides and I was repulsed: I am a dog owner, but I had a long period of being repulsed--and disliking dogs--because of such events with shit.)
And that's it. That's the memory. Just a little pointless tale . . . But: If you are as old as me, whose father has been dead for eight years, then those small memories of him carry much more weight. Gravity. Significance. Old joy. That is why I remember it so, why I write about it.
I was not present at my father's death. I had gone to visit him when he was sick and still lucid. I went to his funeral. I live somewhat far away from Des Moines--and from that hospice in Johnston where he died--and I had to make practical decisions about when I should come. In his last days he could hardly talk and was prone to cancer/morphine delusions. So I saw him when I could tell him that I loved him. When I could lay him to rest. And--knowing my father--he would appreciate such practicality. All he would want to know was that I loved him and missed him and wished that I could talk to him. That's the reality, the most practical, most important idea of it all. That, and memories like the snow fort.

1 comment:

matt said...

Thanks Craig, i enjoyed it and the others alot. I'm glad there are still connections to such lasting scenes from out past, you put them in to words beautifully. Todays post gave me a chance to pause and think about my father and how we are able to spend time together now though it pains him to be seen in his arthritic pain and lack of energy. I can see it in his eyes. I know he appreciates the efforts I make to be available, hoping to amend some of those years I was available to no one. Well I'm glad you have continued to write and hope to stay connected