It decided to snow yesterday. This was the first snow of this season and we ended up canceling church. Like a true Southerner, I love the snow because where I grew up snow only came once or twice every five years. I appreciate snow because rare things are often precious, like when your parents had company, which is what we called visitors who were invited. Visitors who were not invited, were simply called visitors, and it is not offensive if the visit is confined to the front porch swing and rocking chairs when visitors drop in. My siblings and I loved when we had company or visitors. Canceling church because of snow is like canceling your birthday party because you had company over, both were things you enjoyed, but you are miserable because you can’t enjoy both.
Snow was a treat when I was a child. I can only remember just a few times when we had enough snow to last through the day, most of the time it melted away by afternoon. The first real snow that I remember was The Blizzard of ’93. I see you remember that too. It was such a catastrophic event that people in the South still refer to it as The Blizzard. The snow knocked the power out for what seemed like a week and neither of the two snow plows in State of Alabama made it to my county, so we had to wait until the eighteen inches of snow melted before we could venture out. The entire region was completely shut down. It was alright though, we had bread and milk. That was the first time that I was introduced to Snow Cream, which I think is one of the reasons that you have to buy milk when snow is in the forecast. Mom made me wear all of the winter clothes that I owned before she allowed me to walk outside for just a few minutes. Most of my outside time was wasted in being rescued from the ditch, where the snow was much deeper. I remember jumping into the big pile of snow that had drifted into the ditch, only to learn that once you’re in snow over your head it’s impossible to move.
I honestly don’t remember another time when snow lasted for more than a day. Whenever we knew that there might be a chance of snow, my brother and sister and I would stand at our front door and stare out into the yard hoping that the flurrying snow would “stick”. On the rare occasion that the snow did decide to stick, we understood that it was a cardinal sin to defile the pure snow as it was falling. We waited patiently and gratefully until it had stopped snowing so that we could take an official measurement of how much snow we had gotten, before we went outside and made the saddest looking snowmen that you could imagine, even after you had borrowed all the snow that you could from the neighbor’s back yard. It was always sad when you had been watching snow pile up in the yard while you thought about what fun it would be to hit your brother in the head with a perfectly formed snowball, only to have those dreams wash away as the snow turned into rain. Sadly this was too often the case during an Alabama snowfall.
It snowed on us once while we were camping. My brother, cousins, and I used to camp every other weekend in the fall it seemed. We were talking around the fire deep into the night when we noticed the snow falling. I’ve always enjoyed the sound of rain. It’s beautiful steady music. People even play recordings of rain to help them sleep. The beauty of snow is that it falls so quietly, a prevailing stillness that hushes any rustling leaves or critters. The noisy world holds it’s peace whenever the snow falls. Sitting around the campfire we watched in awe as a thin layer of snow covered the countryside. We were able to rake up enough snow to each have a snowball or two. The snow melted as soon as the sun rose.
When I went to college in St. Louis, Missouri, snow was commonplace in that region, and many of the folks who had grown up with snow like I had grown up with oppressive heat chuckled at us Southerners who were playing in the snow like school children. Our first snow that semester was the most snow that my future wife, a Floridian, had ever seen at one time. To see snow that lasted for more than twelve hours was a new experience for us. We made snow angels, and proper snow men. Eventually, a large group piled into my minivan and we went sledding at the park. There was a hill at the park that was about a hundred and twenty yards at a steep angle, which was perfect for sledding, as long as you bailed off the sled before you got to the woods at the bottom. This was a departure from what we called sledding back home, which was sliding down the icy asphalt hill in one of the turtle shell lids from a Little Tykes sandbox. Now I had a chance to sled on real snow, with a real sled, and sledding professionals who had been privileged to experience snow every winter of their life. In my giddy state of excitement, I agreed to let a friend ride down the hill on my back. “Don’t bail off at the bottom!” He said. “Let’s see how far we can go into the woods, it’ll be fun!” He said. I would like to pause here and talk about the dangers of peer pressure. Flying down a snowy hill on a sled with questionable steering, in the dark, is not the time to listen to new ideas from someone who is yelling in your ear. I should have been able to recognize this as bad influence, but as usual, that revelation came afterward. We flew down the hill at an alarming speed which didn’t check as we cleared the woods. I put my head down and closed my eyes. I hit a log headfirst and was knocked unconscious. My friend was getting worried as he called my name several times without any answer. I lost my glasses, chipped all four of my incisors and had a bruise on my face that was so bad that I was sent home from work the next day because I looked so rough.
Learning to drive in the snow was also quite an experience. What I was taught about driving in the snow was “don’t”. That wasn’t an option when I moved away, my boss didn’t understand the concept of everything shutting down so everyone could make the most of the snow. My first venture out onto the icy road was on my way to work while I was in college. The route to work required me to merge onto the interstate, which required making a left turn. I sat in the turning lane looking at the hard packed ice and snow that covered the ground wondering why I didn’t just call in to work. When the light turned green, I pressed the gas and started to make the left hand turn, the vehicle spun slowly around on the slippery ice and when I finally got it stopped, I was on the opposite side of the road in the lane heading back from where I had started. I just kept driving and called in that day. Sometimes you’ve got to know when you are defeated.
I think Southerners have the best experience with snow, because we have so little experience with snow. I know children that have never seen snow and I was four or five before I remember seeing any. Now that I live in a land where snow is not a rarity, everybody and his brother has a snow plow and they even salt the roads, I realize that these people have a different understanding of snow. They have no problem ruining the pure unadulterated snow by walking or driving through it. It’s always sad to see the well-meaning snowplows turn the beautiful white snow into an ugly black.This is too much for me. Can’t we just let the snow be pretty for a while before we start trying to get out of the house? Snow has a way of making everything look beautiful. Snow can make a house with a bad roof look like a Christmas card. Just a couple of feet of snow can make your neighbor’s junk pile look like one of the prints on those three flavored popcorn tins. It’s no wonder that the Lord used the image of snow when he said, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” It’s a very peaceful thing to experience a snowfall and watch the world turn to white, but it’s a laborious, noisy, and dirty job to remove snow. Maybe it’s the little boy in me, perhaps I’m lazy, but something about shoveling snow just doesn’t feel right.
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