There is the slightest dusting of snow across NYC today, the kind of snow that would be brushed aside by a kick of a boot or flick of a windshield wiper in my hometown. Inconvenient, chilly, but no big deal. The snowplows probably wouldn’t even be out for this kind of snow except perhaps to leave a trail of coarse salt to keep it from icing over. It wouldn’t even garner a two-hour delay, let alone a snow day. And after years of dealing with waist-high drifts, of shoveling my car out, doing the “snow dance” the night before in hopes for a day off, I’m grateful that this is the “snow” I’m dealing with now. It’s not nearly as pretty as the crisp while blanket that covered my childhood yard and the awesome sledding hill that caused both great memories and painful injuries. In a matter of hours, even the little tufts of white crowning my neighbors’ buildings will somehow become dull and grey, melting into sullen clumps with the accompanying rain. The kids across the way don’t even have enough material to scrape together the kind of puny snowman that only a city kid could be proud of. And after two decades of snow exhaustion, I don’t care. But I could see how one day I would.
Every once in awhile, NYC does get a pretty epic snow storm. I’m not talking about the horrible blizzards that shut everything down, cause damage, and throw everyone into a tizzy of confusion. Or the sloppy, slippery aftermath that keeps Hunter boots in business. I’m talking about ones like the storm a couple years ago that stopped traffic but left everything else untouched and had twenty-somethings happily skipping through snowdrifts down the middle of Broadway, having snowball fights as they left the bars. The city became a snow globe and we were the picture-perfect occupants of a magical world. For a moment, the city’s hard edges were softened, the usual scrum of noise and crowds were quieted. It was truly magical.
It reminded me of the mischievous (but ultimately innocent) pack of kids I used to run with that included my big brother, my best friend, and our next door neighbors. Every year, we’d scour the shelves of the local discount store for the best sled we could afford in preparation for the big snow that would send us happily galloping towards the sledding hill like a pack of St Bernards off to rescue wayward skiers. Toboggans, flying saucers, flat bottoms, sleds with runners…we had them all. And we put them to epic use with carefully constructed, banking courses and jumps. Never mind that someone (usually me) always ended up with a bloody noise or a bruised chin and there was always the danger of going off the last big drift and landing with a stomach-punching crash in the street with the snowplow dangerously careening towards us. No amount of lunch-tray sliding in college could compare. Especially when they switched from plastic to cardboard to cut down on the inevitable injuries.
Every time the temperature dips, the sun begins its winter hibernation, and the snow starts to sweep in, Roo and I throw a fist up at the sky and vow to move south as soon as we have the chance. No more shoveling, defrosting, snow-blowing, or de-icing for us we proclaim. And when an ill-falling clump of that stupid wet, white crap lands on your bare neck as you try to clean off your car, it’s easy to understand why a person might never want to see another flake ever again. Even with this barely annoying dusting, the accompanying grey-white sky is enough to renew our shared proclamation. But when I’m curled up inside, coffee cup in hand, remembering trundling inside to a steaming bowl of soup and an indulgently grinning mom who hung our snowpants in the laundry room to dry in preparation for the next session of snowy fun, well I can’t help wonder if it wasn’t all worth it. More importantly, while my sledding days are blessedly over, I wonder if I really have the heart to deprive me imaginary, might not ever exist, future kids of the same fun I had. Because bloody noses, snowballs down your back, and shoveling your way out the door aside…snow days were the freaking best.