Right now the rain’s coming down, plinking against the exhaust vent of my gas heater. The temperature’s falling, air stinging our thin blood in the night. But the rain’s not snow; it leaves the streets damp and washes the smog out of the air but it doesn’t provide the soft, quieting, monochrome cushion of snow. I miss snow, I miss winter, I miss the flakes falling and bringing a heavy silence to the world, I miss the steam from my mouth as I exhale and I miss the sharp, dark nights that come in October and wrap around us in February.
And now I am jealous of my friends back East. They are near my home and they see the snow that I dream of even as the sound of planes on approach to LAX breaks through the wet noise of the rain. Their “pictures of the snow”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlykwin714/search/tags:snow/ break my heart with memories of the quiet mornings after a snowfall, when silence and a bright gray light greeted the morning, followed by deep hope for the magic words “snow day” on the morning radio.
It was 1983, about this time of the year, when I awoke to more than a “foot”:http://wintercenter.homestead.com/photo1983.html of “snow”:http://blogs.marylandweather.com/2005/01/february_arrive.html on the ground. Bitterly, I washed up and dressed for school, hoping that school would be cancelled and that I could play in the snow but preparing for another mundane day of class in a heavy, stone building with thick-framed windows that made the cold winter sky so far away. We had, unusually, the radio on through breakfast, listening for the school closing notice; the DJs cycled through the announcements of closed schools over and over again, each time making my stomach drop; I ate barely any cereal as I focused on the babble, waiting for my school name. Finally it came — I was free! Even before the normal morning post-breakfast fun of the Transformers could come on TV, I had my snow pants on and was choosing my mittens from the pile that sat in the closet by the door.
When I opened the door my cat lept out in front of me, as he did every day when I left for school, but soon he was surprised to find himself sinking into the snow up to his hips on every bound. Undaunted, he crossed between some bushes and disappeared into the yard next door. I made snowballs in the front yard, then helped my father shovel the walk. While my father tromped out, in heavy boots, walking to his work nearby, I piled the deep snow from the walk into feet-high walls that paralelled the narrow avenue I had cut from the door.
With the walk shoveled, I headed down the empty street to my friend Chris’s house. He was older — a third-grader! — and popular, and, when I got there, I learned he was industrious too. He’d piled the snow in his driveway high and dug tunnels under it, tunnels we crawled in and played in before walking to the bottom of the hill and building a snow fort. We waited in the fort, rolling piles of snowballs in preparation for battle, until we had to go back in for lunch. After lunch, there being no other children in the neighborhood with whom to do battle, we ran around the neighborhood and never returned to the fort. Through the whole day the bright gray sky sat in heavy silence above us, the street devoid of sound except for the crunch of our boots in the snow and our laughs as we ran up the hill and then down again.
Then the evening came, and the gray closed in, the quiet muffling even our calls to each other as we dodged between parked cars, playing our games. Soon we were called back in, our mittens soaked and icy and our noses red from the dry air, to be welcomed with dinners of hot soup and an evening in front of the TV, comfortable that no school would open with feet of snow on the ground, that the next day could include both Transformers and snow tunnels. Rain gives no such days, no such feels, as much as it cleans the air and moistens the plants on the ground. I miss snow days.