This has been a rough winter in terms of snow. As in, there’s been a lot of it. I mean, more than one would have thought was possible. Four major storms this season already, but it also seriously feels like it’s been snowing every other day since the beginning of January.
Mind you, I don’t think this compares to the huge snowstorms we had when I was a kid growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. Back then, it seemed like we regularly had one or two feet of snow several times a season. And I loved it. To me, it always felt magical. Because my birthday is in January, I often had a snow day close school as a birthday present — or at least I remember it being “often,” even if it was actually maybe twice. On one birthday, not only did I have a snow day, but we went sledding (the park near us wasn’t huge but it was dominated by Floods Hill, which was just as awesome for sledding as it sounds) and some guy who was there with his kids heard that it was my birthday, and he gave us this super-cool, two-person toboggan — because he had an extra one. I remember another time, when I was in junior high, I was writing a 50-page research paper on Ancient Greece — yeah, our social studies teacher gave us this outline on all aspects of history and culture and we had to fill it in, it was the kind of ridiculous thing one only had to do in the “gifted” program. Well, I had done all of the research, or at least the part I wasn’t making up, and I was bullshitting my way through the writing part, actually hand writing out the 50 pages, because this was 1982 and there were no word processors and I didn’t know how to type. I was pulling what I thought was going to be my first all-nighter, which probably meant that I worked until I fell asleep at the table around midnight and went up and went to bed. Well, I woke up the next morning to a snow day. I still smile remembering the relief, how I felt like I’d gotten away with the kind of thing I never got away with (probably because I didn’t know how to do anything bad yet) and knew I would have time to finish it all and still go enjoy the snow. I laughed at how my handwriting from the night before had gotten more and more slanted, like you could tell it wanted to lie down too, but I didn’t go back and recopy those pages because, heck, you could still read it, and who has time when the outdoors was a perfect, sparkling expanse of fun? I just loved snow — walking in it, sledding in it, skiing in it, rolling in it, making snowmen and igloos. I didn’t seem to really feel the cold or the wet for ages, and when I did, I could always go inside, leaving a trail of melt water, rubber, wool and polyester, to hot chocolate and a warm television.
It’s just not like that any more. At this point, the snow in Brooklyn is piled in giant, frozen clumps of a stunning array of colors from yellow to grey to black. The sidewalks are single-file walkways interspersed with luge runs – otherwise known as lawsuits waiting to happen – where homeowners never quite got around to shoveling one of the numerous times they were supposed to or just gave up. I had to take a car service to work one morning last week when I came out to my car to find that the post-storm shoveling job I’d done around it had been entirely obliterated by a snow plow that had come through after, encasing the left side of the vehicle in slush that had since settled comfortably into a solid block of ice. A couple of days ago, no thaw in sight, I finally spent 45 minutes with a weapon-like implement that I got from my super, (my plastic — hahaha plastic — shovel wasn’t cutting it) chipping the Camry out of its shell, peeling off my own layers of clothes, as I dissolved into a sweatball, finally freeing the poor thing enough that I could get in and gun the engine, ramming those fenders back and forth, back and forth, until the car careened into the street, knocking over what unmovable chunks remained. TAKE THAT, WINTER! I am still sore in places that have never been sore before, and nobody has since parked in that spot, which still isn’t so much a “spot” as a skating rink surrounded by a doll castle of chopped ice bits.
It’s painful to become disillusioned about things to which you once had a strong attachment. Sixteen Candles was one of my favorite movies as a teenager, and it was hard realizing that Long Duck Dong was a racist stereotype and that the prom queen essentially gets date-raped by the geek. I used to love the feeling of the sun on my face and the color it gave my cheeks, but it doesn’t have quite the same, carefree appeal since I had four carcinomas removed from my nose and its environs. Cancer, racism, sexism, genocide, poverty, the real world creeps up on you as an adult. You realize everyone you love is going to die. You realize you are never going to be the female Steven Spielberg, and that maybe you don’t want to be because Steven Spielberg has lost his luster too. Of course, you gain as well. Letting go of the things you once thought were so great enables you to find new ones. Amusement parks, Legos, Spaghettios and Gilligan’s Island are replaced by dance clubs, sex, red wine, and Top Chef, to then be replaced by museums, corduroy, hot tea and Downton Abbey — wow, that is a depressing progression, what am I, 90? To be clear, I still enjoy sex, and red wine, although it gives me acid reflux. But you get the idea.
And yet, today as I woke up to yet more snow, I felt that familiar heart lift. It’s a reaction so deep-seated that I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that joyful little leap when I see the puffy flakes wafting downward or the streets covered in white. Luckily, I don’t have to go to work today, but I still have errands to do and places to be, a dwindling supply of food in the fridge and a car that will have to be rescued, again, at some point. Still, for a few moments before I have to start thinking about all that, I can sit by the window, drinking my tea, and recall what it used to feel like, to look out there and just see freedom.