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Elizabeth Cook: Pity the snow; it can’t commit

We have a love affair with snow in the South.

At least some of us do.

We watch for it. Wait for it. Thrill to the sight of those first flakes floating down from the unknown.

Eventually, if we’re lucky, the snow covers our decks and yards and cars — everything. For a few shining moments, our world is breathtakingly beautiful.

Everyday cares are forgotten; you live in the moment.

If you love snow, though, it will soon break your heart. You’ll wake up one morning and the snow will be gone. A glance out the window shows the world has returned to its drab winter self.

Jilted again. Snow just cannot make a commitment.

But  the snow will be back. We don’t know when. It could be days, weeks, even months. But snow always returns.

It can’t stay away.

Our friends to the North would ridicule the idea of  romanticizing snow. For those in the frostiest regions, snow arrives before the Thanksgiving turkey and hangs around like a boring relative who can’t take a hint. Snow piles up,  dirty and massive, and makes everyone wish the snow would … just … go … away.

I’ll take snow’s Southern flings over Northern headaches any day.

Timing is everything.

Even with all its beauty, this weekend’s snow had a tragic element in the eyes of school children. Snow that falls on Friday afternoon is a big, fat wasted opportunity for a snow day.

Teachers still made bets Friday on how many days of school might be missed after the chilly weekend. Monday, for sure. Tuesday, maybe.

Weather forecasting has improved to the point that snow seldom sneaks up on anyone. If anything, sometimes it disappoints us by not showing up on cue.

But snow days are snow days, a welcome break whenever they come.

My grandparents’ house sat on a hill, and for several years we lived right down the street. There was no question about where to go after a good snow.

Feelings are intense in childhood, and snow only magnified that. Who can forget the thrill of careening downhill, the drama of dodging hazards, and the impatience of trudging uphill  to do it again?

Our parents insisted that we come inside and thaw out every so often. We’d hang our sodden mittens and hats on the screen in front of the crackling fireplace. One sip of cocoa and we were begging to go out again.

Or so I remember.   

Someone made up a rule about not letting us go out again until the mittens and hats were dry. It was like the hour they made us sit out of the pool after eating. Interminable.

When our children were small, I remembered how my mother used to bundle us up so thoroughly that we could hardly move. I remembered because I did the same thing to our kids. Snowsuits were bought with an eye toward warmth and aesthetics, not mobility. When toddlers fell over in those snowsuits, we had to help them up because they couldn’t bend enough to do it themselves.

Was all that necessary?  As the children grew I realized they were immune to extreme temperatures as long as they were having fun. And fun in Fulton Heights after a snowfall centered on a hilly side street that drew kids from the whole neighborhood. 

When our girls were teenagers, snow presented new challenges. How could they convince us to let them go out — meaning, drive — regardless of warnings from the governor and the Highway Patrol?

Eventually they gave up and went outside to play like the kids they wanted so much not to be anymore.

Enjoy it while you can, I say. Our snow is fickle —  here today, gone tomorrow (or a day or two after). For all its coldness, though, snow can leave us with warm memories.

First loves are like that.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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