One winter, when I was seven or eight years old, and Brady was five or six, and Nicky (as we called him at that time) was just a baby, we built the best snow fort ever. It may have even been the same year that We Lost Our Boots, but I’m not sure.
We piled the snow from our yard up, up, up against the fence, so high it was level with the top. Then we waited a day or two for the snow to harden in place, and then my dad and Grandpa Fast (who was visiting with Grandma from Manitoba) hollowed it out while Brady and I bounced around the yard excitedly and probably got in the way.
We loved that fort, and played in it all winter long. It was king of the snow forts, as far as we were concerned – we built little snow shelves on the inside, and carved little snow dishes and forks and knives out of smaller, hardened pieces of snow to set on them. We climbed all over that snow fort, and it doubled as our own miniature, personal tobogganing hill.
Of course, with all the play that fort got, it inevitably deteriorated in condition throughout the winter. One day Brady punched a hole through the top of it, which initially incited the dire wrath of seven-or-eight-year-old me, but soon became just another awesome feature of the fort: as the hole slowly enlarged and we started calling it the “manhole”, we spent hours sliding through it, up and down, like little seals sliding through holes in the ice in the Arctic.
It is there that our story really begins.
The Day We Got Stuck In The Snow was not, as you may imagine, a frosty, prairie-fresh wintry day – it was actually some months later, when March had arrived, and the earth was waking from its winter sleep. The almost-spring sun had been blazing for a week or two, melted snow dripped from every roof, the breeze blew luke-warm and we felt free because we could finally forego scarves; everywhere the snow was beginning to melt, and everything looked especially bright as the snow developed that sheen it gets as it begins to melt, then freezes, melts, then freezes and slowly disappears.
And our poor snow fort that was once king of the snow forts had begun to tire. While it had once proudly stood as high as the fence in our back yard, it now sagged a sad foot or so below. The doorway was dilapidated, and it hunched there, huddled against the back fence, a sad, shiny, aging beast.
On this particular springlike winter day, I donned my ski pants (it was almost warm enough for splash pants) and jacket, and raced outside, and immediately climbed atop the snow fort – it may have been on its last legs, but it still had a few days of play left in those old bones! The first thing I wanted to do was dive headfirst down the manhole, which was had been a favorite feat throughout the winter, so down I went, hands first, and when my hands hit the ground, to “walk” on them, allowing my hips and legs to follow. Then of course wriggle out, and climb back to the top and do it all over again (as I type out this explanation, it doesn’t sound nearly as thrilling as it was, I swear).
Only this time, I hadn’t taken into account the fact that the snow fort had shrunk a good foot or so, and that the inside would similarly be smaller. And this time, as I ducked headfirst into the hole and my hands hit that snow beneath, I realized with dawning horror that there was just no room to walk on my hands, no room to wriggle those hips and legs into the snow fort behind me. Even worse, I had no leverage to reverse myself back up out of the hole, so there I hung, balanced on my hands, legs splayed awkwardly in the air.
Dont panic, I told myself, Somebody has to look out the window soon, and then they’ll come help me.
The minutes that followed seem like hours as I twisted this way and that, trying to find some cranny to give me just a little more room to wriggle my way out. I tried not to think about what would happen if nobody looked out the window – would my family find me hours later, passed out, frozen to death as the sun sank and the almost-spring warmth gone with it? But my self-reassurances were right – a few minutes later I heard the back door bang open and shut, and the whisk whisk of Brady’s snowpants rubbing together as he made his way toward me. Relief washed over my inverted little body.
“What are you doing??” he asked, with far too much casualness for my dire situation.
“The fort melted! I’m stuck! Go get dad!” I bellowed, and Brady, thankfully, whisk whisked his way back inside. I, meanwhile, relaxed, knowing that my salvation would be short at hand.
I can only imagine what my dad thought when he looked out the window and saw the lower half of his daughter’s body sprouting from the top of this snow pile, but he did what I’m sure any sane parent would do in the situation – got out the video camera.
When the door banged open and shut again, and I heard decidedly adult footsteps trudging through the snow, I was so relieved! But my relief was short lived, as instead of immediately pulling me from my snowy snare, as ought to have happened, my dad began plying me with redundant questions, presumably for the benefit of his future film audience.
I’m sure there were visions of Bob Saget, ten thousand dollars, and America’s Funniest Home Videos playing in his head.
“What are you doing, Jenae?” “How did you get stuck?”
Well, my hands and arms were beginning to tingle, and I was in no mood to pander to such blatant disrespect. I could hear the mirth in my dad’s voice, which only made me more indignant. “Get me out! Now!!”
At this point, Brady made a decision. Apparently, Dad was not going to help me out, and it was up to him. As the video footage later revealed, he purposefully ascended the snow fort, wrapped both his arms around my knees, and puuuuulled! Unfortunately this mighty yet misguided effort caused my knees to attempt to bend in a way they definitely did not want to bend, and as he pulled, I gave a roar of pain.
And my dad kept that film a-rolling.
Thankfully this malarkey did not continue for much longer. As Brady stopped trying to help, and I twisted and turned and wriggled and squirmed, finally, miraculously, I found an angle at which I could kind of mash my head and shoulders into the wall of the fort, and shimmy and squeeze the rest of my body down. Sweet mercy, I was free!
I tumbled out the front door of the snow fort, brushed myself off and stretched my newly liberated limbs, realizing that my days of diving down the manhole were over, at least for that winter.
Now, you may be wondering, Jenae, the title of this story is The Day We Got Stuck In The Snow – it sounds like you were the only one who was stuck!
Well, not two minutes after I had extricated myself from the snow fort (camera still rolling, by the way), Dad and I heard Brady give a loud, panicked cry – apparently, after witnessing my struggle, he wanted to see if he was still capable of descending through the manhole head first.
It was at this point Dad decided to drop the camera and lend a hand.
The day ended happily, though. After Dad swiftly freed a tear-stained Brady from the fort (Of course! Why hadn’t I played the sympathy card?), we played for the rest of the afternoon in the snow.
It was a day not long after, when patches of grass were appearing here and there and a steady stream of geese were winging their way V-shapedly back North, I climbed atop the old fort one more time. My weight proved to be too much for its old bones to handle, and I suddenly found myself inside the fort with nothing but the wide blue sky above me.
That was the end of our once-proud fort, king of all snow forts.
And that is the story of the day we got stuck in the snow.