Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Simple Joys of Snow

I have mentioned the infamous snow statue in another blog post, but that was a long time ago, and having had no snow so far this "winter" I am waxing nostalgic for the white stuff. So forgive me for this repeat. I just really, really need a snow day up in here.

I was a freshman in college the first time I played in the snow.

"Catching a chill" was a dreaded ailment in my house growing up and, for that reason, I was allowed only limited exposure to cold, damp winter air. When I was four, our family doctor told my mother that I had a weak immune system. Mom took this to mean that I needed to be kept warm and bundled and preferably indoors all winter. Regardless of her sheltering I spent every winter sick, anyway, perhaps because between November and February the only air I breathed was that of two chain-smoking parents partially filtered by a poorly-functioning gas furnace that more than once leaked carbon monoxide. But this was, in Mom's opinion, better for me than getting my feet wet.

Once, during a rare snow storm when I was not suffering from a sinus infection or bronchitis, I was allowed out long enough to build a really pitiful snowman. We had neither buttons nor coal nor a corn-cob pipe for my Frosty's features, so I used a pair of translucent neon-orange ponytail holders for eyes, which made my snowman look like a tribute to Satan. Despite his unconventional appearance, I was so proud of my first effort at snow sculpture that when the snow started to melt, I decapitated him and stuck his head in the freezer to keep for a while. I forgot about him until my mom shrieked as she was retrieving a Banquet chicken dinner and kindly asked me to take him outside and just let him die.
Besides that one glorious afternoon, though, I had skated through childhood without actually skating. I did not think I was missing much, for I hated the cold and did not see what there could possibly be to love about being hit with snowballs.

And then came college, where I rebelled against my parents' strict policies just as every late-teen binge drinker does: by going wild and breaking the rules that had bound me. Instead of alcohol, my vice was a snowmen in the shape of the male member.

The first big snow of our freshman year brought out the inner child in us. Study was abandoned for winter delights. It didn't take much to coax me away from my world history text and out for a walk to investigate the Wiseman fountain, which we had heard was adorned with a pornographic snow creation. It was, but we were not impressed; it was neither life-like (in the girls' limited experience) nor enough of an exaggeration to be worth our time. So a small group of us adjourned to the freshman girls' parking lot, where we planned on doing a friend a favor and clear her Ford Escort of snow so that we could later talk her into taking us to buy hot chocolate. We were nothing if not selfless.

Clearing the snow off the car was easy. Clearing the area around her car of snow was not. So we used some of the ample snow drifts to make our own version of the snow sculpture we had seen at the Wiseman fountain. On the top of her car. Because we knew she would just love it. Well, not really, but everyone else would. And again, we were selfless.

That effort went so well we expanded on it and built a stand-alone snow genital in the parking lot. And the final creation was a masterpiece that made Michelangelo sigh from the heavens with jealously. The attention to detail we paid to our tribute would have made you think we were much more careful, detail-oriented students than we actually were. It was so good that it almost wasn't funny; it was a work of art. It was life-like, grandiose, and perversely beautiful. And seeing as how my boyfriend stepped away from putting the finishing touches on it with his fly down, based on a real-life model. Or so we teased.

We did get hot chocolate, eventually. By the time I went to bed, my feet were soaked, my jeans were frozen, and I had sweated through the clothes under my coat. And then I fell asleep with wet hair. I had committed all the sins my mother told me would make me die of pneumonia, and yet I lived through that winter. I lived to build more snowmen, throw snowballs and be the victim of thrown snowballs, and even go sled-riding. The early- to mid-90s were a snowy time in central Kentucky, and I made up for the winter play my childhood lacked. In fact, I was spoiled by big snow; today a winter that doesn't produce a storm big enough for a good snowman in the front yard is an epic disappointment.

My own kid gets a bit sickly in the winter and I have found myself hollering out the front door, "Leave your hat on! Why are your gloves NOT on your hands where they belong? Are your socks wet? Come on in here before you catch your death of pneumonia!" My instinct toward over-protection wants to keep her warm indoors every time a little white precipitation falls. But then I remember the simple joys of snow angels, snow sculpture (of the non-profane kind), and sledding down big hills. I can't deny her these things, which I discovered almost too late to enjoy them.

And if she does these things now, maybe she will have had enough by the time she is away at college, and she won't feel compelled to join in her friends' creation of an army of snow phalluses throughout campus. Maybe.

1 comment:

Robert K. said...

Wow, that brings back memories I hadn't thought about in a while...