In honor of my friends in Virginia, Texas and Louisiana:
Snow is more occasional than seasonal in the southeastern states, surprising us every time. Rarer than a blue moon, expected with excitement mixed with fear, snow is a favorite winter topic, whether it actually arrives or not. If, when, how much, how deep, how high and for how long buzz in school hallways and supermarket aisles for days. We’re still talking about the time it almost snowed last year. Schools close for “might snow,” “looks like snow,” and if all else fails, “high winds.” Any hint of any weather at all brings out shoppers piling carts with staples, pumping gas into pickups, and excitedly comparing predictions, as gleeful and nervous as middle-schoolers before a dance.
Waiting for snow, we manage to sleep until daylight, then rush to windows to check the view, giddy with the possibilities. Slantwise snow busily brushes on and off the trees, painting and unpainting them glittering white, then blowing onward like tiny flocks of crystal birds. One pine tree stands resolutely green on the north as the other side bows to fate and the burden on its flocked boughs. Bushes are frilled and veiled like girls at First Communion, and behind them stands a cotillion of white-dressed trees with their black-clad beaux. Our southern-bred dogs refuse to go out until the wind stops, and when they do, skittish, they scamper and leap, biting into puffs of snow then shaking their snouts with the cold shock.
Those accustomed to snow enjoy the spectacle of our cars slithering into snowbanks. Northerners’ normal daily drudgery in this season is such a novelty here that we peer out of our windows all day and tune our televisions to weather channels to see other people’s snowfall too. Newscasters in brand-new jackets, hats and gloves hand out window scrapers to those unaware that an old cassette case works just as well. We go out in every coat and scarf we own, taking longer to dress and undress than we actually spend outside. We shuffle out, muffled up to our eyes, with brooms and snow shovels to clear the deck, the car roof, the sidewalks, and struggle out to an empty mailbox. Satisfied, we rush back inside for a hot drink and, as long as it lasts, the internet, to begin bragging of our boldness.
When we fall, we fall spectacularly, dramatically. We don’t just get wet, we are soaked to the skin. We slip on the slightest frosty spot, slide along driveways waving our arms, or skitter gingerly across the parking lot to arrive panting and dripping at the automatic doors of the local grocery store. Homeward bound, we repeat the process and struggle indoors with emergency packages of whatever we forgot before the storm. Afraid we may catch our death, we stand steaming by any heat source, smugly rubbing our chilled hands. It is only a matter of a degree between amputation of our toes and their falling off on their own. Tomorrow, our cars will be enveloped in epic drifts and slide on blacker black ice than any the north has seen. One light snowfall every two years gives us more anecdotes than northerners earned between the great blizzard of 1888 and 2015’s Snowmaggedon.
Every snow is the first snow for us, fresh and crisp, decorating the trees and roads, sparkling on our roofs and lawns, until, melting and slushy, it leaves us only with puddles and grand stories of the Great Snow.