As far back as I can remember, I've loved when it snowed.
As a child in Lower Manhattan in the 1940s, I eagerly listened to forecasts that predicted snow was on the way.
Those days come to mind here in the winter of 2015, when we've endured a total of 45 inches of snow on Long Island, including eight storms that dropped at least an inch, and even more coming this week.More ExpresswayReader essaysReader essaysGet published in NewsdayCartoonMatt Davies' latest cartoon: "Coming for your guns"
When I was a child, snowstorms reduced the pace of urban activity while muffling the raucous sounds of the streets. I marveled at the wondrous designs and shapes of individual snowflakes alighting upon my clothes and how collectively they produced a magical costume change, draping all surfaces in white garb. Snow tidied things up, covered the irregular discordant features of the urban landscape in a consistent, unbroken cloak of white.
Of course, my enthusiasm went beyond aesthetics. I was a kid, so snow meant the possibility that school would be closed, that I could walk to a nearby park and sled down a hill, that I could pack the stuff into snowballs and toss them at passing cars and trucks and at other kids my age (especially girls).
Even as the snow fell, I recognized that its dominance would be short-lived, that the city was too formidable an adversary, could not be overcome or neutralized by such a delicate crystalline carpet.
Looking out on to the street from my fifth-floor apartment on Fourth Street, I resented pedestrians walking along on the snow, particularly how their footsteps marred an otherwise unbroken surface and how cars disrespectfully plowed through, often revealing dark, dull surfaces below. What satisfaction for me when continued snowfall soon covered up these blemishes.
Later in life, I spent considerable time in the countryside of western Massachusetts. There, snow could master the surroundings and transform the landscape for extended periods. Snow landed on trees and created a magical kingdom decked out in winter's finest. In those surroundings, snow would reach impressive heights, making snowshoes a necessity. It would accumulate on homes and roofs, making them appear much larger. The country was made for snow, where it peacefully co-existed with the natural surroundings.
With the passage of years, I still delight in snow, but have also come to accept other perspectives.
Especially in the cities and the suburb of Rockville Centre, where I live, snow is the enemy of order. As soon as it falls, it is attacked with shovels, snowblowers, snowplows, salt and sand. It is an adversary to be defeated as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. It blocks driveways all across Long Island and traps automobiles against curbs when plows push snow off the streets. Snow produces traffic delays, accidents, heart attacks and even deaths, together with costly cleanup operations and business losses. Childish delight in snow must yield to these sobering truths.
Snow in the cities and most suburbs inevitably ends in disappointment. Bright, smooth surfaces degrade rapidly as temperatures rise. Puddles form, slush develops, icy areas emerge and dirt accumulates along the surface.
What is sadder than snow piled up at the edges of Sunrise Highway in Baldwin, Old Country Road in Mineola, the Southern State Parkway near Massapequa -- roads familiar to me. It becomes rotted, pitted, horribly blackened, a far cry from its original luster. What once was everywhere shrinks to isolated patches. What was originally pure and sparkling turns unsightly and unwelcome.
The fond memories of snow from my boyhood remain, but they are now measured against the reality checks of adulthood.
Reader Richard Skolnik lives in Rockville Centre.