When I was in tenth grade my family suffered the great exodus north. We packed our house, our belongings stuffed into boxes, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where my father had taken a job for another construction firm. My birth place. Indianapolis that is; not the construction site, unless, of course, there is something my parents haven’t told me about my conception. Still, we moved when I was three to the Sunshine State and I have no recollection of those first three years of my life in the Circle City. We had gone back on visits, but most of those had slipped the cracks of my memory, as well. I remember visiting other family members, staying at my Aunt Laura’s and having dinner at Aunt Margie’s, but what I don’t remember is the snow. I’m sure it was there. I just don’t recall it. That year in tenth grade, however, I received enough of the frozen rain to stick in my memory banks for the rest of my life.
At first, the fluffy white stuff is a fun novelty. When you wake in the morning to the freshly fallen snow blanketing the frozen earth, the moonlight glowing off the surface illuminating the world, it’s a breathtaking spectacle. You always remember that first sight. You rush out to play in it not even caring that you forgot your coat and gloves. The first snowball is thrown, snow forts are built and snow angels decorate the front yard. If you’re lucky you live near a hill and garbage can lids become sleds as you spin your way to the bottom. That first snow is miraculous, bringing out the young in heart in all who get to witness it.
Then humanity strikes as life moves on, forgetting the beauty that had just graced it’s existence. Snow plows clear the streets, cars drive over it leaving their mushy tracks and the afternoon sun melts it to mush. It’s now black and grey and even yellow in some spots. The air is ice as the wind slices through your flesh reminding you that winter is there in force. The beautiful blanket of snow is now a dirty mess to be hazarded and cursed. You’re no longer making snowmen, but rather shoveling an escape tunnel from your front door to the car. Your boots are soaked and your toes frozen. You want to stay inside and never go outside again. I wanted to go back home to the sun that melted your body and the shark infested ocean.
Char had never seen snow. She had seen artificial snow when we chaperoned the boys’ youth trip to a ski resort in North Carolina, but that is nowhere near being the same thing. It’s chopped ice cubes, basically. She wanted to see real snow.
Monday we were leaving our cabin in Pigeon Forge and most of us were ready to say, “Forget it. We’re staying.” It had rained most of Sunday and by the time we were all ready to turn in for the night, the wind had kicked up in fierce gusts, rattling the windows and bending the trees. It was a storm worth watching - from the warm safety of the inside, of course.
We finally cuddled up under the warmth of our blankets and drifted off to a cozy slumber with the storm as background noise to our dreams.
At six in the morning we heard a soft, childlike whisper. “It’s snowing!” Char stood there in pajama pants and a sweatshirt, her hands clasped together under her chin as a lone tear of joy trickled down her cheek. Her eyes twinkled like a toddler’s on Christmas morning.
We didn’t hesitate. We bounded out of bed and followed her to the front porch as snow flurries began to cover the cars and surrounding yards. I held her in my arms as she repeated, “It’s snowing, Robbie. I got to see snow.”
Of course, we shoved her out in it and snapped several pictures, not even allowing her to slip shoes on. Afterwards, we tried to get some more sleep, but it was pointless. Char’s excitement filled us all and it was as if seeing snow for the first time as we watched it through her eyes. The kids were soon awake and snow was scooped off of the cars and snowball fights ensued. Even the 8 year-old darted out into it having seen it before, but having no recollection of it, much like I was at her age.
Snow covered the porch in impact splatters and loading luggage into cars was like running an obstacle course as I tried to avoid the incoming balls of ice. We had to have awakened the people in the surrounding cabins with the screaming and laughter, but I didn’t care. There was no way I was going to hush this experience. This was the perfect ending to a great family vacation.
The flurries continued to fall as we finally said goodbye to Pigeon Forge. Driving along Interstate 40, Char’s eyes never left the window as the world had been painted white. We were saying good bye to Tennessee, but Char was saying hello to new memories and new experiences.
That first snowball brings out the childlike wonder of all as we are once again reminded of the majesty and beauty of nature. Miracles are in the eyes of the beholders and those who open their hearts to see them. On that car ride home, nature painted a miracle and with pure eyes we took it all in and relished the experience. I hope, if you’ve never had the chance to experience it, you make it a priority. You will never think of snow the same way.
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