Feeble Knees

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Waiting for the Snow

Any minute now, it'll be here, amounts of up to an inch per hour. Batten down the hatches! Any...Minute...Now...

This is part of what I don't like about winter in New England. Waiting for a storm to hit, running out to the store like everyone else to snap up milk and bread. When I got to the supermarket yesterday at four, the parking lot was crammed. People were stocking up in advance of the storm that should have started in the early morning hours.

We decided to abandon our plans to go into Boston or Cambridge tonight because of the reports - less than a quarter mile visibility, up to eight inches, etc. But as of ten this morning, nothing! If life is going to be inconvenienced, I'd rather it would just hurry up about it. If it were already blizzarding out there, I wouldn't feel so silly about still sitting around my bathrobe drinking coffee at ten in the morning.

As winters generally go here, it hasn't been all that bad and we really haven't had much snow to speak of. But usually it isn't the snow itself that paralyzes us as the expectation of it. No one wants to get caught out on the roads in it.

I commuted four years to college. I lived about thirty miles outside of Boston and either took the train or drove into downtown Boston five days a week - six or seven if I was working on a show. Living "North of Interstate 495" is particularly annoying, because what amounts to an inch of rain in the city equals six to eight inches of heavy wet snow and ice where I live. Naturally classes and rehearsals weren't cancelled, so I'd be obliged to make the long and arduous trek in from the hinterlands, which could take anywhere from two to three hours, depending on traffic and where the rain/snow line fell.

My freshman year there was a southern California girl in one of my classes. She'd never been out this way before. New Englanders were new to her, and a source of much amusement. She laughed at how we talked, delighted in pointing out how our ways were different, etc. (A note to non-New Englanders: We don't think that's cute or charming. Really.) The one thing she did go on and on about was snow - she'd never seen it and couldn't wait for the first snowfall. She became a watcher of weather reports around about November. Every time it came up in conversation, the locals would laugh and say, "Oh you'll think it's neat the first time. Just wait." To us, the idea of snow being some sort of emotional delicacy, or at all exotic was just preposterous. It's snow, for crying out loud. Snow is to New England what palm trees are to Florida.

After class one morning in December it finally happened for her. As we walked up a narrow street passed some old Back Bay carriage houses the first tiny white lace drops began to fall. The air was delicious with cold and frost."It's snowing!" was the cry. We all looked up for confirmation, then to the SoCal girl. Bemused, we watched and waited as the scene unfolded.

She stood stock still in the middle of the street, her mouth open and eyes wide. Everything else ceased to exist for her as the flakes swirled down and kissed her nose, her cheek, her hair. First just a few, then faster and steadier they came, nesting in her hair and snuggling in on her arms and shoulders, melting blissfully into the warmth of her wool coat. Her eyes filling up, her arms outstreched, she shouted, overwhelmed: "Here it is! Oh my God! Oh my God!" In this her baptism by snow we all stood witness; smiling, happy, and changed in a moment by her radiance and joy.

It's begun, at last, just now as I was writing about the girl and the snow. First it was a few lone swirlies, causing my husband to holler out from the office: "It's snowing!" as if it had been in doubt that it would. Now a steadier downward drift has begun, and while I can still clearly see the houses and the trees down the road, the edges are softer, dimmed and blurred as if wrapped in tissue. The flakes are small and falling faster now. The cats pause by the window to reflect on it, to trace the flight path of a single snow drop as it floats past the window. The houses on my street are shut up and still, everyone hunkered down in silent observance, waiting.

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