Maybe it’s because I’m a native Texan. Maybe it’s because Mother Nature always amazes me. Maybe it’s the same for most people. But the first snow in New England each year really does feel like some kind of enchantment. It seems incredible that light, pure, sparkly dust suddenly sprinkles from the sky, sugaring everything below. Fairy dust.
Each fall, once the fiery autumn leaves burn out, the dry, brown landscape looks like it died some apocalyptic death, and I begin to yearn for the first snow. I figure if it has to be freezing, it might as well be pretty. In Massachusetts, we often get at least a light snow shower by late October or early November, but those months came and went with nary a flake. I was starting to get itchy.
Last week, I logged into Facebook and saw that my friend Dave wrote: Well, it’s snowing in Houston. Get your affairs in order. Now, it’s not that odd to snow in the northern parts of Texas, but Houston, less than an hour from the Gulf of Mexico and practically tropical, is another story. It snows there extremely rarely, and when it does, it’s a very big deal. (It snowed the winter after I was born, and the family still talks about it.)
Before I got too envious (or too panicky over climate change), the storm that brought the magic to Houston began to head our way. I woke up Saturday morning with the excitement of a kid hoping to find gifts under the Christmas tree. Snow is coming! But for three annoyed hours, my husband and I sipped coffee, scanned the windows and checked weather apps on our phones that stated it was already snowing in our fair city, though it obviously wasn’t.
And then, at last, it began. And it was everything I hoped for.
For hours, gorgeous white fluff cascaded gently and settled softly on the bird feeder, the porch railings, the posts on the back fence. Department store snow!, I thought to myself, my term for the best quality snow, good enough for a fabricated winter display, as distinct lacy flakes fell onto my black gloves, ornate as doilies.
I squished the dogs into last year’s red holiday sweaters and took them into the backyard where they both embodied the zeal I had felt upon waking. I stood watching my fur kids while literally thinking/singing the line “dashing through the snow.” I took dozens of blurry pictures on my phone as they blazed deep tracks through the white, running in circles, dipping their snouts into the cold and flicking up icy shards again and again, looking at me with awe. Exquisite joy.
After dark, my husband and I bundled up and took them for a long walk, the snow continuing to fall, landing on our shoulders, muffling the sounds of cars, diffusing the glow of holiday lights. We made actual snowballs and threw them at each other. We laughed, remembering making snow angels, drunk on whiskey, when we were first dating during a similar snowfall. The dogs left perfect paw prints behind and we, big boot prints, all over the neighborhood, the first marks on a clean slate.
The first magical snow obscured the last of the crunchy fall leaves hugging the curbs and perched in the crooks of bare tree branches. My friend Kae posted a photo of a dry flower head capped with white on Instagram and sweetly captioned it, When the plants all wear tiny hats. I wasn’t alone in my wonder. Snow covered up patches in lawns and frosted the roofs of houses. Quickly, the neighborhood has a visual cohesion. Suddenly, the world looked sanitized, the spotless illusion most welcome.
The next morning, a quick peek out the window showed me a world covered in diamond dust, as the sun glinted off fresh, soft drifts. A perfect first snow, like stars fell to earth. Thank you, I told the Universe.
Two days later, I started my day looking out my office window at what appeared like the beginning of a blizzard; lovely swirls of enormous snow clusters passed by making me feel like I was typing away within a snow globe, just shaken.
By mid-day, as New England weather does, things changed. A warmer bit of air pushed in and the nice precipitation liquefied, misty at first, then hard. Snow was washed away in places, laying bare the dead ground again. Snow slid off the roof in a chunk with a whoosh. I trudged to my car with my parka’s hood over my ears, the faux fur getting soggy and matted as I was pelted with cold rain. By the time I took the dogs on their evening walk, ice was beginning to slick the pavement and I wondered where my YakTrax were as I thought about the possibility of falling and breaking a wrist.
December 21, the official first day of winter, has yet to arrive. And I am already so over it.