Snow, and lots of it, is one reality of central New York in December. From
the weary perspective of an adult, snow is cold and gray and hard work and
aggravation. But when mom and writer, Vanessa Sands, sees the sparkling
white stuff through the eyes of a toddler experiencing her first snowfall,
some romantic notions are restored. In one snowy afternoon, Vanessa recalls
past joys and the future’s promises.
So it is with dreaded anticipation that we watch the nightly weather report, ready for the eventual forecast that will bury every visible thing outside in several feet of snow. We adults groan, moan, and whine about our lot.Chat with any acquaintance this time of year in central New York State, and the conversation inevitably turns to the weather. Or, more specifically, snow. This year, the overriding topic has been the uncanny lack of snow, a snow drought that has broken record after record. Two weeks ago, my husband and I gleefully put up our usual Christmas decorations in the usual way, but in highly unusual garb: shorts and tee shirts.
We talk often and openly of moving south. We muse about how very tired we are of our shoveling, scraping, wheel-spinning way of winter life. And even in the midst of a beautiful fall with the sun spilling warmth that’s driven down sales of hot cocoa and ski passes, we keep a weary eye to the sky.
First snow of the winter
I awoke early this morning, before the sun had risen — or, more accurately put in this clime, before dawn had watered down the dark blueness of night into a paler, bleaker gray. These frigid mornings usually drive me further down into my comforter’s warmth and back down into sleep.
But the voices of my two older children stirred me: they were hushed, out of respect for their sleeping baby sister, but excited. Up and down the hall, they rushed from window to window, giggling, these kids who get up for school so reluctantly. They could barely contain themselves. As the day’s light began to fill our room with a curious blue-white glow, I realized what had the kids all atwitter.
Outside, the world was blanketed in white.
Just as I did, my 18-month-old daughter woke earlier than usual. Her room was bright with an unknown light. I dressed her hurriedly-we had many errands to run. Presents to buy, packages to mail, baking supplies to pick up, in the holiday frenzy that possesses most of us at this time. Add to that my prenatal checkup, and it equaled a very busy day that was bound to leave me tired and frazzled.
First snow of her life!
On our way out to the van, however, she took a detour-out into the brand new world she saw before her. At first, mildly annoyed, I ran to scoop her up and deposit her in her carseat. Then I saw her face, her little angel mouth in a perfect “oh,” a gasp of wonder puffing out her tiny chest.
Faster than I could say, “Get in the van,” she thrust her tiny hands into the unknown substance at her feet. She squealed with delight as she mushed, stomped, threw, tasted, smelled, and kicked the wondrous stuff. The look on her face, though, spoke much more clearly than her limited vocabulary: “What’s your problem, Mommy? Look at this! It’s so beautiful. Magic! That the cold, dreary rain of yesterday could become… this.” We accomplished no errands today, save my doctor appointment. We played and giggled, she in the first toddlerhood snow, and I with new eyes. When we drove to the doctor’s office, she yelled, “Pretty!” as we passed trees that stood painted with wet snow, “‘Snowwwwwww!” as we passed newly clothed hills.
Tonight, as I reflect on the lessons of my children, I am humbled. To how many everyday precious things have I become jaded? To how much of this beautiful world have I become blind? How fitting, then, that at this time of year, so many of us celebrate the birth of a baby who would later implore us to be as little children. How suitable that we mark His birth with evergreen and holly, symbols of everlasting life amidst the cold reality of death. How appropriate, too, that the faithful of so many denominations, in fact, now plunge into spiritual and religious rites that center on renewal, rebirth, and hope.
We must remember that under the cold pure snow lie seeds of life, just as beneath my layers of winter clothing kicks and tumbles a fetus that will bloom as surely as the springtime flowers. We must allow the lights on our forever-green Christmas trees, the flames burning on the menorah, the nature-inspired traditions of winter solstice celebrations-along with the simple joys of childhood discovery — to rekindle our spirits.
Whatever your beliefs, my holiday wish for you is for the gift my children gave today: new eyes, renewed spirit, perhaps a new heart that’s willing to trim the irrelevant and concentrate on the truth of the season.
Let it snow.