I do not remember when I realized that snow was one of my mother's favorite natural phenomena, but I think I was quite young. I have a very hazy memory of sitting on her lap at the front door of our little post-war house in Colonial Hills watching the snow fall. We would sit with the storm door shut, but the front door open so we could see more. I can remember her telling me that she loved the snow, because it never snowed where she came from. Mom came from the deserts of southern Arizona. Since then, I think I have always loved the snow, too, but until just recently, I never wondered what made me like the snow so well.
I was a winter time baby (born in early March) and so, when I got my driver's license, I had to learn how to drive in the snow. The test was to take DAD in the car and not scare him. This was a tall order. I couldn't exhale in the car without scaring my dad. I remember picking up my Grandmother (his mom) from her house for dinner. He dutifully rode over with me (since it had recently snowed) and coached me the whole way (now, tap your brakes...not too fast, now). Once my Grandmother got into the car however, he became a bit more frantic that I do a good job. Finally, Grandma told him, "Be quiet, David! For heaven's sake you're making her more nervous and she's doing just fine!" He, being a perfect child, (har-har) did stay quiet and I did manage to "pass the snow test". I always considered myself a good snow driver and actually liked driving in the snow. But walking in the snow is a totally different kettle of fish.
Walking in the snow requires attention to detail, balance and the reflexes of a cat. You never know what may be hiding under that clean white layer of snow. It could be ice. One day, it was doggie doo-doo. Sometimes it is a thin layer of ice on top of a very deep, very cold puddle. I have managed (knock wood) not to fall on the ice at all this year. I am feeling pretty good about my snow walking skills now, too. So maybe one of the reasons I like snow is that it provides a challenge that I am able to meet.
But, I think the real answer came out when I was discussing the snow with a friend. He also loves the snow. Being from Northern Ohio, Columbus is a bit of a disappointment where snowfall is concerned. After all, significant snowfall here is 2-4 inches. That's just a light dusting where he comes from.
I asked him why he liked the snow. He told me that he thought it was mostly nostalgia. It got me to thinking why I liked the snow. I decided that I liked it because I liked the way it looked on the trees and because it quieted the city. Both are true. I love waking up in the morning after a snowfall and seeing all the trees, bushes, cars, houses...everything covered with a clean layer of white; still undisturbed by feet and shovels and salt trucks. Everything is slightly muffled and the city is quieter and looks cleaner. You can hear the blood rushing in your ears. It reminds me that I am alive, still.
When I was in my twenties and early thirties I would actually wake up during snow falls. I couldn't sleep. It was almost as if there were an electrical charge to the snow. I remember being pregnant with Michael and waking up suddenly, as if some one called my name, only to find that it was snowing. Then sitting at the picture window of our first apartment looking across to a ravine and watching the trees fill up with snow. It was breathtaking. I just sat there in silence and watched the snow.
So, I guess if I boil it down to the heart of the matter, it is nostalgia. It is remembrances of learning to drive, of sledding down the ravine hill across the street from our house in Clintonville, of standing up to my hips in the snow after the blizzard of '78 (snow so deep that we couldn't sled!), and of "School without Schools" that February. Memories of taking Joe and Sarah out to sled and coming home to hot chocolate or warm cider and fresh cookies. Memories of my first apartment and preparing to have our first child. It is the memory of sitting on my mommy's lap hearing her tell me about a dry, barren place where the magic of snow never happens and hearing her spin the magic into a lifelong joy that springs up every time I see flakes of white falling from the sky.
I can't wait for it to snow again...