SNOW!

teenager-shoveling-snow

No one has to tell you. You just know it.

You hear it before you see it.

Even before you open your eyes, you can sense the swaddled landscape.

You draw back the curtains and there it is: snow!

Brightness seeps in through the drapery. From your bed, you recognize the tentative tones of a car as it inch-inch-inches down your street. In your mind’s eye, you see the driver’s studious grip on the steering wheel, his focus tight and sharp on the obliterated road in front of him. Voices, bell-like in the frigid air, pierce the walls of your home. While still horizontal with covers tugged to your nose, you sense the general muffling of activities. You recognize the scrooping sound of boots on flocked pavement. Like the gentle whompf of a loaf of bread dropped onto a countertop, a bough releases a weight it can no longer bear. No matter your age, your heart beats a little faster. A lot faster if you’re still in school. And faster still if there’s a snowflake’s chance in hell that school is canceled.

You draw back the curtains and there it is: snow!

Deep and crisp and even – just like in the carol.

Snow.

The challenge implicit in such a day is how to best use it?

On rare and wonderful days when the weather gods are drunk with bonhomie, the sky is cornflower blue, a razor-edged contrast to the unfurled bolt of shimmering white and silver brocade. These remarkable days arrive like a dare; like a velvet gauntlet tossed down before your bedroom slippers. The challenge implicit in such a day is how to best use it? The karmic marshall of all things whispers in your ear, “I will not send you many like this one. Be wise. Don’t waste it.” No, this is not a day to clean out the crawlspace. Not a day to go to the dentist. Not a day to collate paperwork in advance of tax filing. No, this is a day to dig out the toboggan, to ferret out the snow shoes. To, advisedly, improvise thermal layers. This is why, three years ago, you bought those marshmallows; for a day such as this. Three year old marshmallows will be fine floating on top of hot cocoa. 

Photo by Stefan Pasch

With the snow came an agenda of rapture. The dog divided her attention from barking madly at the mysteriously blanketed landscape outside to barking madly at the manic uptick of activity inside. Our mother dumped bins of gloves and toques and mittens on the floor.  We pawed through the pile looking for matching pairs or hats that weren’t too humiliating. The garage was rifled for anything with a smooth bottom for sliding downhill on.  

Everyone talked about snow depth as if it was Covid counts.  

“How much did you get?”

“The Williams got a foot and a half!”

“The Lees had bear footprints on their driveway!”

“The Lees had bear footprints on their driveway!”

Photo by Greg Rosenke

We knew about ‘snow lines’, meaning what areas got snow first, who got the most snow and where the snow would linger longer – ravines and densely treed areas. A car with a thick mantle of snow would drive by and we kids would stop in our tracks, paying our respects as if it was a mafia don en route to the cemetery. 

Snowfall was a windfall.

To my brothers, snow represented opportunity. Snowfall was a windfall. There were fortunes to be made shoveling walks and driveways. Shovels were quickly assembled and they set out in their Cowichan sweaters and red-rimmed gumboots to knock on doors. Competition was fierce.  The trick was to be first out on the street when the snow stopped. There seemed to be a neighbourhood consensus as to what was a fair wage for the work. Amongst their customers, there would be those who would insist on paying double when the job was completed and there were those who would try to bargain the price down. My parents always made them shovel the walks of those who wouldn’t be able to handle the job themselves. This was done as a courtesy and a lesson in civics. 

Thinking on it now, in my adult life, no kid has ever knocked on my door looking to shovel my walkway.

… moms and dads and tots on toboggans.

I live near a park. Not just any park, but a park with a mildly sloping hill. If the snow sticks, the top of the hill fills up with moms and dads and tots on toboggans.There will be someone learning the basics of skiing. Adolescents will build unimpressive jumps to hurtle over on their slip ‘n slides or flattened pizza boxes. Beside my house on the frozen flume that is my alleyway, the braver ones fly by in laundry baskets.

Snow – it doesn’t last long.

But the memories sure do.


This week’s question for readers:

WHAT ARE YOUR SNOW DAY MEMORIES? AND WHO SHOVELS YOUR WALKWAY?


Now, in return, will you do something for me? Will you sign up for The Plain Jane, my newsletter? You can ignore it, if you want, when it shows up in your inbox every few weeks, but my rotten kids will think I’m a star if I have a decent subscriber list. 

Here’s further incentive to sign up: PRIZES!!!


Submissions to last week’s question:

So, are you sixes and sevens? How are you faring at this stage of the pandemic?

Sixes and sevens! Will it never end?!  But I figure we’re on the home stretch now and it’s always darkest before dawn. Right! Right?? Please tell me I’m right!

B. Locham

So, it’s not one word – bobsyeruncle? Live and learn!! I’d grown up hearing that saying but have never seen it in print before. Love hearing these stories about words and expressions, Jane – thank you.  One word I’ve had just about enough of –  mind you –  is ‘pandemic’!!  That word can fade into obscurity any time soon, please.

John Watters

Like you, every second person I was supposed to be with at Christmas tested positive for Covid.  Nobody got terribly sick but, still, we curtailed all our plans and cut the guest lists to near zero.  New Year’s will be the same. If Christmas ‘22 is a repeat, I don’t know what I’ll do!  

Miranda Clooney

My British cousins always said “Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt’. This mystified me as I had no relative named Bob nor Fanny.  Thanks to you, I finally know what the uncle part of the saying means, but I’m still not clear on Fanny! 

Andrew McHale

1 thought on “SNOW!”

  1. Yesterday I finally ventured outside of my Surrey townhouse to attempt to deal with the almost foot of snow that had fallen overnight, only to find a new neighbour called Nelda, already busy with her snow shovel, clearing my driveway. She had been working her way down the street and had managed to help anyone she thought needed her assistance. What a day brightener to find a snow angel living among us!

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