Those of you from other, colder, parts of the country may have heard the almost apocalyptic-sounding tales of the events that surround any weather forecast that happens to mention the words “winter precipitation” down here in the South. As soon as those words are said, families kick it into high gear. Moms run to the grocery store to buy bread and milk (which is invariably a waste of time because the shelves will be empty within hours of the announcement.) Dads fire up the generators and dust off the sleds from the attic, and all the children sit anxiously in front of the TV, hoping to spot the name of their school in the laundry list of school delays and cancellations for the next day. (As a side note, I have clear memories of staying home for a predicted “Snow Day” that never actually happened. There was literally not even a flurry and all the schools were closed.)
To be fair, the over-reaction is not entirely our fault. Because we so rarely get significant snow accumulation, most municipalities are not properly equipped to handle a winter storm, meaning that it can take days to plow the major intersections, despite the dedication of our city workers who are clocking in for 24 hours straight. Also, the majority of our storms tend to involve way more ice than actual snow, which everyone (except for that know-it-all driving the brand new SUV) knows is much more dangerous and causes a lot more problems with transportation and power outages.
That being said, I could only smile when I heard the conversation my son and his Daddy were having over breakfast last week after our first wintry weather of the season (which was actually the first in a while, since we got none last year!) It went something like this…
Daddy: “Look C, do you see the snow outside!” (referring to the smattering of white on the natural areas and frosty, crunchy-looking grass)
C, very enthusiastically: “I’m going to get my sled!!!!”
As background, C did in fact receive a sled as a Christmas present, which we were hoping to use at least once or twice this season, even if it requires several hours of driving. Even though I didn’t grow up with a ton of it, I always loved snow and I think kids that don’t get to play in it are missing out! His teachers have also been talking a lot about snow in school, and C has recently been fixated on a particular episode of Curious George involving sledding and snow shoveling. But since the only real snow he’s ever seen was far too early for him to remember it (a random White Christmas in 2010 when he was only 9 months old), I’m sure he took one look outside and assumed that winter was HERE and he could do all the things he’s been reading about.
As I got him into his snow-bibs (bought over-sized at the consignment shop last year for $10), he chattered giddily about the joys of sledding and building snowmen. I started to feel sorry for him and tried to gently prepare him that there might not be enough snow for everything he wanted to do. But my warnings fell on deaf ears…and it’s a good thing too, otherwise I could have robbed us both of the chance to have fun in our very own backyard winter wonderland!
We ran around on the crunchy grass, took turns pulling each other on the sled (sort of…), and dug, plowed, and scraped with our garden tools. Within an hour the sun had turned our yard into a soggy mudpit, at which point we shifted to jumping in puddles and poking at the layer of ice that had frozen on top of some rainwater from C’s wheelbarrow. The only sign of disappointment came at lunch when he looked out and saw that the snow was gone (“I wish there was MORE snow, Mommy.”)
I realized that I once again had underestimated the powers of my little guy’s imagination, and that what he saw when he looked out our backyard window was so much more than what I had seen. Where I saw a plastic toboggan being slowly pulled by an old climbing rope on an ever so slight incline, he saw the two of us tearing through an alpine meadow on a fine-tuned wooden sled . Our footprints were bear tracks, and our garden tools were ice axes, and the ice in the wheelbarrow was a half-frozen pond that his toy cars could drive on (carefully, of course ).
While I’m still hoping that we’ll get a chance to take that plastic penguin sled out on a “real” sledding hill this winter, I’m not feeling sorry for C anymore. He certainly won’t be suffering from lack of winter fun any time soon. But until we get some “real” snow, we’ll be taking advantage of what we do have – mild temperatures and sun-drenched rock!
What’s the attitude towards snow where YOU live?