Having grown up in the South, I was amazed and enchanted with all the snow I encountered in southern Poland during my first winter there. “Snow” is a frequent word in my journal during that period. In January 1997, just six months after arriving, I wrote,
It has begun snowing steadily this morning, and the wind is making the snow fall at quite an angle, greater than forty-five degrees at times (or less, if you use the ground as a point of reference). The flakes are very large and wet, and they coat my jacket with white when I walk.
In Bristol snow never stays on the ground for longer than a few days. There might be spots of snow in heavily shaded areas, but not the continual blanket of Lipnica. The temperature is consistently below zero, so old snow remains as a foundation for the occasional flurries. Yet despite the amount of snow on the ground, it really hasn’t snowed that frequently. The bulk of the snow now on the ground is from two heavy snow falls, and it hasn’t done much more than flurry since then.
Heavy snow that stays on the ground for weeks, below-zero days, hoar frost, zero at the bone — all these things were relatively new experiences for me.
Later in the month, I continued:
It is snowing, and has been since Tuesday night. Something like four to six inches has fallen, and I love it. The wind blows fiercely and the wet flying snow makes me have to look down anytime I go out. It’s a storm by my standards, but probably only an average snow fall in Poland. It will give me something to talk about back home. “You call this a storm?”
Over the years, though, the snow lost its novelty. Snow everywhere for weeks on end soon became as much a hindrance as a blessing. I knew I’d fully lost my fascination with snow when, walking to midnight Mass one Christmas with K and her aunt, I found myself overwhelmingly annoyed with the sound of shoes crunching and squeaking on the ice and snow.
Then K and I moved to the States, ultimately ending up in South Carolina, where snow is as much a rarity as ninety-degree weather in K’s Polish hometown. Snow became a blessing again, but it is so rare. And so every winter, we wait in anticipation that we might get just a touch of snow.
Today in school, after the first two periods, when eighth grade students were heading off to their various third period related arts classes, the teachers spoke in a hush.
“Mr. M said we’re going to be releasing at twelve today.”
But it was all in anticipation of the storm bearing down on the South. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced an in-expectation snow day: several years ago, when we lived in Asheville, schools closed the day Babcia was supposed to arrive, also in expectation of a mother-of-all storms. That one never materialized, though. So today I was a little skeptical of the whole prognosis as we got the kids through lunch and hustled out to their buses. I arrived at home around two, and nothing.
Finally the snow started falling, but the flakes were so small that they were difficult to see, and after fifteen minutes, only the lightest of dusting covered the table and chairs on the deck.
“Can we go outside?” L asked, eager to play in the snow and checking the window periodically.
“Can we have a snowball fight? Can we build a snowman?” L has had so little experience with snow that she can’t understand the amount of snow a simple snowball needs. She has no idea the difference between wet snow and dry snow and the impossibility of making snowballs and snowpeople from the latter.
The Boy, having been in Poland last January, has much more experience with snow. The only problem is, he doesn’t remember it. So he too was fascinated with the white powder on our back deck.
L and the Boy returned to their cartoons, and finally the snow became significant, hiding the glass under its less-slight dusting and making significant inroads with the chairs.
Close, but not enough.
Finally, the Girl could stand it no longer. “Daddy, I’m going out!” And off she went, searching for snow to eat and a patch large enough to ball into a projectile.
I got the Boy and headed out shortly after. After marching about the yard for a while, he began scooping swirls of snow, leaves, and dirt in the backyard.
L on the other hand was working on a collection of snow in the cat’s outside bowl.
Once K arrived and we’d stuffed ourselves with chili (what else to eat in such weather?), the four of us handed out for a family walk. The sun had set but the night was still bright with the sparse snow and gray sky reflecting street lights, and the stroller’s wheels crunched in the snow: surely everyone who saw us thought us mad. Our stroll took us to the edge of our neighborhood, into a parking lot of a small corporate office. The Boy was convinced it was “babbas,” a gigantic manifestation of the bubbles in his bath that have become a highlight of his day. He ran in the snow, occasionally calling “babbas!” The Girl chased him, chased K, chased me, obsessively calling, “You’re it!”
So much joy from just a dusting of snow. Only finding out we could do it all again tomorrow made it better.