DePaul College Prep
Almost all of the best childhood memories I have were only possible because of terrible weather.
Snow days were a revelation where I grew up. Tough winters were just a part of our personality, growing up in a blue collar neighborhood in Western Michigan, and snow plows almost always found a way to clear a path to school. But every once in a while, Mother Nature would give the youngsters in town a wink, and bury our two lane roads in enough glorious frost and sleet to lift the hearts of kids across the county and fill their imaginations, at least for one day.
We would tune in on the AM radio, tucked in next to the radiator, and not minutes after hearing the words “Lincoln School”, our snow pants were strapped on over our long johns and we were on our way. My sister and I had sleds with our names on them, Santa had brought them to us that year – mine was bright orange, long and slender, with a rope handle in front, Angie’s was purple and round. I’d shovel the driveway with my Dad, carving out a slippery route for his pick up to glide out onto the road – he was off to a job site, my little sister and I were off to conquer Kiwanis Hill.
There are very few things in the world more breathtaking, for a 5th grade kid from Michigan wearing plastic bags inside his velcro winter boots, than a fresh, unspoiled stretch of snow, draped down a clean, and quiet hillside. Kiwanis Hill was the place sledding icons were made. Moments became memories, memories became stories and stories into legend (at least, that’s how this version came to be). It was a six block walk for us, through the unplowed back streets and alleys, winter wind snapping underneath our scarves and with sleds in tow. But the glory of the first glance was why we, and every other neighborhood dreamer, made the pilgrimage. We downhill daredevils would run high stakes derbys at break-neck speed, build ice ramps, and carve outside runs twisting off the path and down through the thick undercover of branches. As the day drew late, we’d collapse at the bottom, backs in the snow, and eyes up to the grey above us, catching snowflakes on our tongues and laughing through the exaggerated stories of our epic runs from the day.
Pure joy – that’s the best way I can put into words what days like that felt like. Almost always, those days felt like they ended too quickly. It would be late afternoon before my sister and I would make it home, usually around the time our school day would have been ending. The hot chocolate always tasted a little sweeter, though, on those days – the ones that I remember most fondly – the ones that wouldn’t have happened, if not for really bad weather.
It was a wild rain storm and an overwhelmed sewer system on the far end of town that turned my best friend’s rural neighborhood into a river boat adventure ride. A fierce summer squall turned up tree roots and pushed flash floods through the roads, as the water held high for one magical night. Nick and I floated down the roads, in makeshift rafts, sailing the streets like pirates. Backstroking by mailboxes, we were the captains of Applewood Drive for an afternoon.
It was another startling storm that knocked out the power on our block in February, one particularly cold Winter. It was that same storm that also helped to build a family blanket and pillow fort in the living room, the one the four of us slept in, together, for two nights, in front of our fireplace. My Mom dug out every couch cushion and forgotten quilt we had tucked away, and my Dad stacked as much firewood as we could fit against the mantle. We told stories, read books by flashlights, and wore every pair of socks we owned. I loved those nights.
Even though, at times, it can be hard to see, through the snow, or the storm, or the darkness, there is always good to be found in the world, if you choose to look for it. My hope is that our 2021 Conference theme reflects that. I know that each of us have faced challenges in our lives, this year and for many years before where we are now. I know we have felt sadness, fear, pain, anger, worry, frustration, and loss in our lives. I know that these words or a logo can’t change any of that on their own. My purpose here is to simply offer a humble metaphor, a collection of memories that help to tell a hopeful story, a joyful story. Despite how dark a moment may seem, I do know that the sun still rises, even through the rain. It’s my hope that we can remember to find some light through the clouds, and remind ourselves to always try to Look for the Good.
We will be sending a survey to members in early October regarding Conference. We greatly need your feedback as we move forward in planning the 2021 Conference.