An interior decorator might shudder when walking into the great room of our log house. Across from a Tom Lea print of Old El Paso, a Montgomery Ward sled adorns one wall. Emblazoned with the name, “Silver Streak,” the red sled testifies to the importance of winter memories. It often transported me down the hill west of our home outside Racine. Sometimes I’d take a running start, flop belly-down onto the sled, and steer a course all the way to the bottom. More often, I’d hit a bump and get tossed off two-thirds of the way down, to land laughing in a cold drift of white.
While I know that my sister, the neighbor kids and I played board games at our kitchen table on many winter afternoons, my most vivid memories feature the white outdoor world — the towering snow drifts, the occasional spin-outs in our Ford when Mom drove us to school on frigid days, and the enormous snowbanks we climbed when we walked there on our own. We tunneled through the biggest drifts, heedless of the danger of roof collapse and suffocation, and built forts worthy of a general. We cached piles of snowballs behind our defenses and pelted each other in frozen fantasy wars. When we visited Uncle Eddie’s farm, my cousins and I skated on the Root River where I imagined meeting Hans Brinker, his silver skates flashing in the sun.