21 12 2008

It has been snowing in Seattle on and off for about 5 days now. A long time for snow in the Emerald City. I was born in Freeport, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico, and spent my early knee-high years in Bellaire, a suburb of Houston. It doesn’t snow much in Houston. I used to see pictures of snow in books and Life magazine, and also on our black and white television, but I yearned, in vain, for the real thing.

View from the family Manse

One morning, when I was nine, my father woke me up before sunrise. “Bud, hurry, it’s snowing, but it won’t last once the sun comes up.” So I jumped out of bed and ran out the front door. The yard looked the same as ever, but falling from the sky were tiny little flakes, so small they were all but indistinguishable from rain. I’m certain that I pouted. My father said, “No, look up there” and pointed at the house. And there up on our roof was a faint patina of white. Snow! it was so close, but still unattainable.

I stuck out my tongue like I had seen kids do on television. My tongue got a little wet. Ah, snow.

 The following year we moved to Stockton, California. During the process of moving, we went out to find a house. While I was gone, it snowed in Houston. Snow! Real snow, snow that stuck on the ground. Snow that could be made into snowballs. Real, white, really, really cool snow. And I missed it by a day. One lousy day. When we returned to Houston, I ran over to see my best friend Stan. He took me to our favorite vacant lot that had a swell climbing tree. And there in the shade, brown with pollution, I guess, was a tiny patch of snow. Of course Stan lorded it over me. Now, he had seen snow and even played in it. But both of us stared in awe at that little dirty patch of white.

 Shortly thereafter, we loaded up the car and headed out to my father’s new job in Californy. The Beverly Hillbillies had not yet been invented, so I had no visions of the Clampetts dancing in my head. We drove the interminable distance from Houston to New Mexico. Google maps says Houston, Texas to El Paso, Texas is 745 miles. That is a lifetime to a ten-year-old. And both of my parents smoked. It was cold outside so the windows were rolled up. By the time we reached New Mexico, my eyes were bare slits burning from the cigarette smoke.

But, then it happened. As we entered New Mexico, my father, who was driving, said “Oh, no!” I looked up from my comic book. The windshield wipers were going. Was it raining? Mother said, “Look Bud, it’s snowing.” I dropped my comic and stared. Then, one of the windshield wipers fell off. It just fell off and the remaining shaft scratched a big mark across the windshield. My father swore. He turned off the windshield wipers. The snow fell harder. Mother tried to reach out the passenger-side window and wipe the snow off the windshield with a Kleenex. Ha!

Motor Court Post Card

 We were on the edge of Deming, New Mexico, and off to the right loomed a tourist court. Yes, a tourist court. One of those 1950’s predecessors to motels. There were about 10 rooms, with a couple of round metal tables and metal chairs out in front. We pulled in, checked in, and settled into our seedy little room to wait out the night and hope the snow ended.

 I was ecstatic. I put on my stocking cap-for some reason our family called stocking caps “toboggans” -I pulled on my skimpy little cotton-knit gloves, and ran out to play in the snow. Uh, how do you play in the snow? Oh, I went over to one of the tables and tried to make a snowball. But this snow was very dry and wouldn’t hold together. I threw my very first snowball and it came apart blowing away to all quarters in what was now developing into gale force winds there in Deming, New Mexico. I made another and packed it down until it was basically a chunk of ice the size of a ping pong ball. I threw it.

 What else did one do in the snow? Well, I kicked at the little drifts. This got snow inside my black leather shoes. I went back to the table to make another snowball but I had used up all that snow. Besides, my gloves were now soaking wet, and the wind was blowing and I was COLD. So, I went back into the warm, if smelly tourist court room. My first experience with snow was unsatisfactory. I thought about this for a long time. I finally came to the conclusion that it must be much more fun when there were other kids to play with.

Twain Harte, California

 Stockton, California didn’t get snow, either. However, before long we moved to Sonora, California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Oh boy, there had to be snow there. However, upon arrival, the locals, “Poison Oakers” they called themselves, the locals bragged that Sonora was above the smog line and below the snow line. So not much snow there, either. My parents used to drive up to the town of Twain Harte so I could see snow. Once again, it was just kind of wet and cold when you were by yourself. Sigh.

 Since then, over my many years, I have seen lots of snow. I’ve lived in Wisconsin where the worst sound in the world is that of the snow plow going down your street at five am. In Chicago I spent a magic Christmas Eve with my friend Anna as we went in and out of the stores-my red and green woolen scarf smelled unpleasantly of detergent, and my eyeglasses fogged up every time we went back outside-Christmas music was playing, and we walked over to the Picasso and on to the just-completed Chagall and gi-normous snowflakes floated all about us.

One December in New York the snow began to fall as I walked down Fifth Avenue looking in the store windows. I went over to Rockefeller Center to look at the tree and watch the skaters. The wind was blowing and it was cold and I had to stop in Lord & Taylor and buy a toboggan-sorry, a stocking cap.

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink

So, it’s snowing in Seattle. I have been on this earth for 60 years, and no matter how long I live, I will always thrill a little to see snow. I no longer want to go play in it, but looking out at it from a warm and cozy home, is bliss.

 “…And hunger not of the belly kind, that’s banished with bacon and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above

But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowded with a woman’s love…” Robert W. Service




2 responses

25 12 2008
Deran Wright

You certainly nailed the awe and delight in which Texas boys hold the slightest hint of snow…

25 12 2008

Yeah, but this Texas boy is ready for it to leave now. In Wisconsin the roads were flat and clear of ice and snow all winter. In Seattle everything is paralyzed. I may have to blog soon about cabin fever.

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