I remember the morning I awoke to my very first snow. I was seven years old and my family had just moved to the Willamette Valley from Long Beach, California. My father woke me up that Saturday morning with a movie to entertain my younger brother and I while he made breakfast. Hungry children can be tyrants, and my brother and I were no exception. I remember he shook me awake and whispered to be quiet so as not to disturb my mother and to go to the front room. He held the VHS of Balto in his hands. I crawled from my bed, sad to leave the early morning warmth of blankets, and walked down the hallway, rubbing my heavy eyes with tiny fists. I moved into the front room of the house, my feet cold now that they were exposed. It was, I think, January; I remember that there was no Christmas tree blocking the window, and it was through that window I saw the white of fallen snow.
I gasped and ran forward, pressing my nose close to the cold glass and peered out at a world that was both familiar and brand new. It was as if the snow had reconstructed the place I called home, burying it in more white than I had ever seen in my life. I turned my head toward my dad who was smiling as if he’d planned for eight inches of snow to dump on our house as an early morning surprise, intending to lure us out of bed with the promise of a movie.
“What’s that stuff?” my five-year-old brother asked.
“It’s snow!” I shouted.
I don’t know why I was so excited. I don’t know what drew me to this foreign, wet powder. I thought it beautiful, but I also knew it was cold. I knew some people didn’t like snow because of the cold. I knew it could be dangerous. Yet, my body was filled to my fingernails with excitement. I ran down the hall to my parents’ bedroom shouting for my mom to get out of bed and come look. The need I felt to run outside was urgent. Once my mom was awake, we all dressed in our warmest clothes: pants, wool socks, sweatshirts, winter coats, snow boots, and mittens. I was the first outside, eyes wide and mouth gaping.
I remember it was cold, but I didn’t care. It meant that I was outside in the snow. I looked around at the white fluff, how it covered the ground, how it built up on branches and dressed the trees in white garments, winter leaves. I stepped slowly, afraid to disturb the magic that had transported me to an alternate place. The snow crunched beneath my feet, the only sound I remember, as if the snow had muted the ruckus of the city and the rush of the morning. I leaned forward, bending at the hips, and gathered a bouquet of snow in my black gloves, brought it to my face and breathed in. It smelled of sky, of wind, of rain; it smelled of a place I could never see except through this medium. I was smitten.
My parents and my brother soon joined me and our backyard was filled with laughter and shouts of playfulness. My dad stuffed snow down the back of my mom’s coat, eliciting a squeal and a kind of desperate jump-dance that made my brother and I fall to our knees with laughter. My mom repaid my dad’s kindness with a wet snowball to his red face. An hour or so we played, only retreating indoors to eat breakfast. As soon as my plate was clear, I was out in the snow once more, unable to untangle myself from the tendrils of winter.
I built a snowman, I made snow angels, I spun in circles and stared up at the sky, pink and covered in clouds. I felt as if I belonged to this natural phenomenon, this strange beast of winter. I was no longer human, I was a winter child, possessed by a fiery cold that I hoped would never thaw. I wanted it to snow again so I could watch the flakes tumble through the air to their designated place on earth. I wanted to taste them on my tongue, feel them on my skin, watch them tangle themselves in my hair. I wanted to be one with the snow, wanted to forever be part of this winter world. I hoped I would haunt this goddess of snow the way I knew she would haunt me.
Later, I sat with my feet near the fireplace. Heavy crackles echoed inside the black iron stove. The little door to the stove was open; my dad had left it so when I finally came inside, soaked through. He took a single glance at my pants, drenched in melted winter, and my hands, red from cold after having discarded my gloves, and my wet hair, and pointed for me to sit near the fire he’d just built. I pulled my feet from my boots and little tufts of snow tumbled onto the brown shag carpet.
“How did you get snow in your boots?” he asked, shaking his head.
I knew the question required no answer. I smiled and sat. After a while, I laid on my back, stuck my feet into the air and held them near the heat. My socks were still on my feet because, unbeknownst to my dad, I intended to go out again before the sun had fully set. I plumped my coat under my head like a pillow, reveling in the lingering smell of winter. I gazed out of the sliding glass door at the backyard; even in the waning light of day, the snow was vivid. Inches of its purity still blanketed the grass, the concrete patio, and the wooden play structure. My brother sat behind me eating popcorn; he had given up on the wet and the cold, satisfied that he had become well acquainted with the Oregon winter. It no longer held his interest. I, however, was not so easily pacified. I needed to further impress myself upon this world I knew wouldn’t last forever. The snow would melt at some point, and I wanted a piece of me to travel with it wherever it went, carrying me along until we were reunited once again.
The weather man’s voice droned in the background, one moment promising several more inches of snowfall, only to then reverse the claim. I didn’t listen too closely. I knew that my connection with snow and with winter was true and that, because I loved her, she would stay with me a little longer. I stared at my brown, wool socks, still wet and cold from the snow inside my boots. I was glad they were still wet. I wanted much more of this manifestation of magic connected to my body. I wanted to don my boots again and dive so deep into her cold hands that my body would interlock with her fingers and make us one entity. I wanted to breathe snow into myself. It was the first time I had seen my reflection in nature, in the earth, and I wasn’t ready to let it free. While my dad was in the kitchen talking to my mom, I grabbed my coat, slipped my still damp feet into my boots, and snuck into the winter darkness.
Written by Janel Brubaker
Janel Brubaker – I graduated from Clackamas Community College with my associates in English and Creative Writing. I also graduated from Marylhurst University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Writing. I was the Managing Editor of the M Review for one year. My nonfiction has been published in Bookends Review, The Bella Online Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Phenomenal Literature, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Sheepshead Review, DoveTales Journal, LEVITATE Magazine, and Timberline Review.