I’m sitting at my desk procrastinating and looking out the window at the snow. It just fell last night so it’s still white and fresh and there aren’t too many tracks through it, aside from our dog and the various woodland creatures that call our back meadow home. We only received a couple of inches, but it is just enough to change the look and feel of the yard. The crumbling barn looks charming when white, as does the decaying shed. Even the cellar hole, filled with its tetanus-covered treasures, looks less unruly. This is what I had remembered so fondly about Massachusetts when I was gone. White winters so cold that the snow would come and stay until it eventually warmed up enough that it would melt. I know this can also make for some unsightly snow – especially near the roadways – but I liked that it lingered all the same.
When we first moved to Northern California many years ago I cried when winter arrived, knowing there wouldn’t be any snow and that we didn’t have the funds to go on a snowcation. The white twinkling lights on the palm trees in downtown San Jose became salt in the wound, as did the outdoor skating rink where you could almost get away wearing just a t-shirt while stumbling across the ice. The following winter we moved to Texas and just as I was getting used to the idea that my winters would no longer be snow-filled, it snowed. Of course it only lasted for twenty minutes and melted as soon as it hit the pavement, but it was thrilling for me and my not quite 2 year old. I put on jackets and the snow pants that I never thought she would use and raced outside to explore the grounds of the apartment complex. We even had hot chocolate when we came back inside, sweating from our over abundance of outerwear in Dallas.
We moved back to Silicon Valley and another snowless winter came and went and became much less emotional for me. We hung up Christmas lights on the manicured hedges of our 1940s bungalow – careful to avoid the abundance of fruit trees – and even the festive palm trees became something to look forward to. Then we decided to move to Northern Colorado. Snow central! Or so I thought. My love of the white stuff returned with a vengeance. I prepared for frigid temperatures, not seeing the sun for days on end (bonus!), and snow piled high. We would have to hunker down and wait until we could dig ourselves out while we sat by the gas fire and listened to the crinkling of the ceramic “logs,” though it would actually be more like squeaking than crinkling as the ceramic material heated up.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about the snow, having neglected to research the number of sunny days per year along the Front Range (estimated at close to 300 if you count partly sunny days) and the simple fact that we would be a mile closer to the sun – the enemy of all things frozen. We also did not live in an actual mountain community so snowfall would not nearly be so dramatic. Our first winter it only snowed a few times, barely covering the driveway with each storm. Even on 30-something degree days there was no need to stay huddled inside for warmth, as my teenage neighbor would prove by wearing a down vest and mini skirt as she waited for the bus and calmly chatted on her phone. My warm winter coat was never needed, let alone wool hats and heavy gloves. Our gas fireplace was broken. I was assured that it would snow the following year.
The next year provided more of the same: hardly any snow to speak of and endless days of sunshine melting the little there was. I took to wearing lightweight fleece and put away our heavy winter clothing. Weatherbug.com became my obsession as I watched growing storm clouds gather all around us, but never over us. During the week I would spend my time in downtown Boulder where the snow would fall and create such a magnificent winter scene I began to think they rigged the weather simply to justify the cost of living. I would then drive the 20 minutes home and watch the snow level decrease at each mile until I reached a clear driveway. For some reason knowing I was in an actual snowy place made it even more difficult to go without snow. I started researching mountain living, ignoring the obvious fact that we were not a “outdoorsy” family.
Finally, in our third winter, the snow came. I watched it snow and snow and really start to accumulate. We had our own house and our own sleds, the gas fireplace worked, and we had hot cocoa supplies. The kids and I shouted as we ran around looking for snow pants and coats, boots, mittens, hats, and sleds before waddling out to the deepest and most powdery snow I could imagine. We immediately started making snowballs, squeezing and compressing the snow in our mittened hands before loosening our grip, only to have the ball immediately turn back into powder and fall through our fingers. Snowmen suffered the same fate. I learned the downside of powder snow. Later that day I also learned the term, “sublimation.” For that’s exactly what happened to the snow as the sun came out and I watched my winter wonderland disappear into a neighborhood-permeating fog. Snow was beautiful, but impermanent in Colorado.
So here I sit in my bedroom office, escaping the cold that has taken over the first floor of the house from its complete lack of insulation. It is almost noon and the snow is still here. It covers the roof, the car, the branches. The winters are colder than I remember and the snow isn’t as deep as I thought it used to be, but the lingering is as I remembered.
I can’t even bring myself to take in the Christmas lights.