I am from up North. Me and snow, we have a history - a long and storied past. Growing up, nothing compared to the very first time those white flakes would fall from the sky. It was incredible, a miracle, really. How can something so delicate, be so immobolizing, destructive, and, well, cold? It would show up around the same time year in and year out, but for me, the magic of the first snow never became ordinary. After the storm, my mom would lug a big cardboard box up the stairs from the basement. There was one word scrawled across the side in Sharpie: Winter, but it might as well have read Nylon because that box was full of the stuff. I put on layer after layer, pulled my knit hat down over my ears so far it was grazing my eyelashes, and wound a striped scarf tightly around my neck, mouth and nose. I ran clumsily towards the door and out to be greeted by a sting of cold air. Within minutes, my scarf was scratchy and soaked with hot breath, so I ripped it off, leaving it behind as a stream of color in an endless white landscape.
Some days the snow was waist deep and I would pick my legs up high under the resistance of all of that frozen water. It was like walking through sand dunes, or maybe something equally resistant but more wet, like Jello. Our backyard had a sizeable hill and all of the neighborhood kids would bring their sleds over. We would slide down over and over again for hours. Going solo, or sometimes with three of us piled high. Despite our best efforts to avoid chaos, someone would always crash. Always. Perhaps the most treacherous obstacle was the creek that ran through the backyard at the bottom of the hill. Inevitably the fun would come to a screeching hault after one of us slid full speed, straight into the creek. Soaking wet and freezing cold, we ran to the house crying and begging mom for hot chocolate, which she always delivered.
Last night, we took an evening stroll around the neigborhood and admired all of the beautiful lights that are in full abundance right now at the height of the season. A harvest of sorts. As we walked along, I thought about the excitement and warmth that would fill my body after school when I shuffled up the freshly plowed driveway and spotted the lit Christmas tree. Trembling cold in the gray fade of the late afternoon, I knew that once inside I would be warm and there would be snacks and tv and that tree. Oh, that tree, and what it meant in the days to come.
Recently, a nearby park here in LA covered one patch of a small hill with snow on a bright and sunny morning. The kids in the neighborhood came out in droves with all manner of creative sledding apparatus. I saw the plastic piece from underneath the dish drying rack, laundry baskets and cardboard contraptions - some crude, some sophisticated. When you live in this climate, your garage is not readily stocked with sleds, snow shovels or skis, as ours was back in Michigan. It made my heart glad to see kids wearing cropped pants and sneakers while playing in the snow. The laughter and smiles were abundant, as well as the snowball fights and speedy collisions.
Reflecting upon snow seems especially poignant when we are just a few short days away from Christmas. I have grown used to not having snow on the ground, but that does not keep me from dreaming of a white Christmas year after year.