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Lynn Oldach-Engle

The First Snow

Many years ago, my family left our home in the tropical warmth of the Caribbean and moved to a small New England town north of Boston. Steeple-tiered churches and wooden buildings with brick facades replaced the vibrant, paint-box-colored cement houses of our youth. The roads and trees in this cold, northern land had turned brown, and the wet, dank days of late autumn often had us longing for the vivid red hibiscus and purple bougainvillea of our island home.

Then, one night in late November, the night sky grew pallid and lost its stars. Through the windows we could see the world filling with cottony wisps that hung in the air and drifted lightly to the ground. "Mama," we called, "Come see...the clouds are breaking up and it seems that heaven is falling." "It's snow," my mother called out to us, and she launched into an explanation of how and why this was happening. We listened with half an ear as we had already learned of the science surrounding this apparent miracle; the reality, however, was incomprehensible. Struggling into coats and boots and gloves, we ran outside screaming with excitement and launched ourselves into the blinding whiteness of the night.

Slipping and sliding we made our way down to the center of town. It was late and the roads were empty of cars and people. Our whooping and hollering echoed through the noiseless town as we rolled ourselves, over and over again, down the snow covered hill behind our new High School whose friendless hallways we roamed by day. Exhilarated and numb, we trudged back up the hill to our house, laughing all the way home. The next morning, for the first time in many months, smiles and happy chatter filled the breakfast table.

A lifetime of snowfalls and blizzards has passed since that first, snow-filled night so long ago. And like all New Englanders, we now whine about endless cold snaps and become fretful in March as we trudge through our mud-laden world. The arrival of spring is met with great anticipation and longing, and when those first hints of yellow and green rise up from the earth, we sigh in relief, knowing that soon we will be warm again.

Sometimes, though, in late November when the wintry air turns crisp and new snow begins to shape the world into silence, I stand outside in the stillness. Off in the distance, behind the muted whistle of the commuter train winding its way over snow covered tracks, I still hear the echo of young voices raised in unremitting delight. And I remember the moment when this cold, strange place sneaked inside our hearts and became home.

©2008 by Lynn Oldach-Engle

Lynn Oldach-Engle is a freelance writer living in Winchester, Massachusetts, but grew up on the island of Puerto Rico. She has been writing seriously fo the past fifteen years. Her column, Bits and Pieces, has appeared regularly in her local paper, The Winchester Star, over the past six years. She has also had essays in the Providence Journal Magazine and the Boston Globe.

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