69. Ice Flowers

By Peter Fraenkel

Ever seen them? I used to love them when I was a kid: elaborate frozen patterns like flowers or stars on our windows.

Of course, Breslau, where I grew up, did get very cold

In winter and in those days people didn’t have panes of double or even triple-glazed glass in widows. I don’t think such panes

had yet been invented. Instead, when winter came the concierge brought up a second set of windows. These hooked neatly into loops on our window frames. Then he nailed a sort-of-sausage stuffed with cotton wool between the two sets of windows.  This kept out the winter drafts. But, of course, we had all been breathing so humid air from the room had been trapped between the two sets of windows. This froze where it touched the outer glass

How it came to form such beautiful patters I do not know and I don’t think the adults around me knew either. They did try to explain but to me it sounded unconvincing.

When we ventured out, I was wrapped in many layers of clothes.  This made me feel clumsy and fat.

I guess running around and throwing snowballs would have been a better way of keeping warm.

Certainly more fun.

There was an artificial hill a few blocks away.  In summer we flew kites from the top.  In winter we tobogganed down the slope.