Snowy begginings

21 Nov

I grew up with the snow, grew up tasting it, packing snowballs with it, sledding down it, making snow angels in it and tracking it through the house until it became watery pools on the wood floors. I suppose the first time I must have felt snow was as a baby, swaddled like a papoose in blankets, and as one of my parents transferred me from house to car, car to house, perhaps snowflakes fell and caught on my eyelashes, and I blinked them away in wonder. One can only imagine.

It wasn’t until I grew older that I realized snow is a formidable foe. It is something to be scraped off the car before it can be driven and shoveled off the driveway, and ice must be chipped away. Yet I learned temperature early. I knew if I did not tuck my mittens up into my coat sleeves that ice crystals would form on my slight little wrists and sting them. I knew that my cheeks burned if I stayed outside too long and that if I didn’t wear snow pants the weather would creep into my boots and sop my socks until I could not feel my toes. I knew early how to bundle, which bin held the best mittens and how many layers of underwear and pants would sufficiently protect. Such things one absorbs early in cities full with snow.

Today it seems sad some children never know the wonder of first snow falls. This is one of the great joys of my childhood. I remember standing at the window and seeing tiny white tufts begin pouring from the sky as if someone had overturned a bucket full with cotton. One of my siblings or mother would have called me to come look – “Snow!” – or if I had seen it first, I would have called them. There we would stand together at the window watching our world become blanketed by white. Whole minutes (which are long periods of time for children) we would stand there just looking, frozen in wonder. The snow blew around the windows and formed a frame on them, and as we watched, it also caught on the blades of grass and began building our play place layer by layer. Christmas, we then instinctively knew, must not be too far away. The house suddenly felt snuggly and cozy and the outside very strange and mysterious, something to be explored.

I would have asked my brother or he asked me if I wanted to go outside and play in it. Of course we each wanted to. The winter wear came out in dusty puffs, pulled from dark, spidery closets, and we put everything on, always way too much for the first snow so that when we went out we felt like stale marshmallows. We waddled. As we put everything on, the mittens and scarves scattered themselves around the laundry room in mayhem. Something was always missing: a mitten, hat or boot. We would become desperate. Our play was threatened: “Where IS it?” But Mom would be helping us, and she always magically found the match. Often it was hiding somewhere obvious, like right on top of the basket, but we were too distracted by our excitement to have seen it.

When we finally left the house and the sliding glass door on the side of the house slid shut behind us, we would have first felt the silence coating this new world. It dangled delicately from the branches of bare trees. It blew in, around and between every snow flake. It drenched our dreams. The great whiteness absorbed all sound for the snow wasn’t yet even crunchy. It was just soft and soundless like what a baby must know in the womb. This was the world we entered, or rather, jumped breathlessly into.

 

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