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