There is something so sad about melting snow, and the fact that a single day’s snowfall can take three days to disperse, turning gray and then black in gutters and drifts, seems to make the sadness somehow worse.
Last night, Mitch and I bundled up and took a long walk through our neighborhood, which is full of old houses on random, looping roads, and experienced the singular joy of walking sidewalks that, clearly, had not been trod for hours. Ours were the first footsteps in that snow.
A better first, by far, was when we encountered a father and son, the son just barely walking and clad in a stiff snow suit, beanie and pacifier, shuffling hand in hand with his father through the falling snow. Mitch and I both had the same thought, which was joyfully confirmed by the father as we greeted them: “It’s his first snow!” The baby belted out “Hi!” around his pacifier, and shuffled on.
This sighting came while we discussed the difference between this snow and the snows of our childhood – it’s far easier, now, to stay indoors, wrapped in blankets and cats and couches, and appreciate the snow from a comfortable distance, than it is to feel that wild need to run outdoors in bare feet the second that first flake falls. I was never an outdoorsy child, was never the sort to spend hours sledding on a single inch of snow, but that need to be there, somehow, before the first flake hits the ground, to look up and see the hundreds of flakes that are coming, still gets to me. When it snowed last year I was at work, and I ran out into the parking lot just to look up and see all that white falling in strange, curling lines.
As we walked last night, the snow kept falling, and our hats and hoods and the muffling quality of the snow made it difficult for us to hear one another, so that we kept turning toward each other, calling “What?” Every sentence had to be repeated, but we didn’t mind.
Near the park, we found a pack of kids sledding down a hill almost too small to mention, and the rise and fall of their voices – quiet as somebody climbed the hill, then elated and cheering as that somebody slid down – told us where they were far before we were within sight of the park.
The old houses that surround this park sit up high on small hills and keep their blinds up at night, so that we can glimpse a little bit of our neighbors’ lives as we stroll past: televisions flicker in several rooms, a woman sits at a sewing machine in another, one empty living room is painted blood red and trimmed with orange.
Though it’s only the first of the month, several houses already have their lights up, and this is the sort of neighborhood that does Christmas decorating with class – a single electric candle in each window, one tree in the middle of the yard artfully illuminated with strands of white lights. One house boasts a walkway lined with what look like paper bags lit with tealights, though the bags are half-buried in snow and hold their shape far too well to be paper and the none of the candles have gone out yet, despite the water.
There is one house that breaks this subdued theme, every year, but they haven’t decorated yet. In a week or so, they’ll drag out the ten-foot tall inflatable snow globe, flick on the eight strands of colored lights encasing their tall, tall fir tree, and the rest of the neighborhood will sigh audibly and harbor secret thoughts of sabotage.
At some point during our walk, the snow stopped falling and the temperature rose a single degree. Red-cheeked and damp to the shins, we stomped our feet on the door mat before going in but nevertheless trailed snow into our apartment, where our cats sniffed wide-eyed at our boots and backed skittishly away as we shook snow off our hats and coats.
This morning, I woke to the sound of dripping. I expect the snow will be mostly gone by tomorrow, save in those dark patches throughout town where the sun, so low this time of year, never reaches. Those will rise up mottled and gray for weeks – until the first good rain, or the next snow comes.