Here in the south, we're excited to hear the word "snow" being batted around in the forecast. Okay, maybe not everyone is excited, but I certainly am!
Having grown up in Illinois where cold weather arrived in October and camped out until April, winter in the south has been quite an adjustment for me.
In our corner of Alabama, snow is a rarity -- in fact, extremely rare! The last time we got enough snow to cover the ground and pile up 2-3 inches high was oh, about five or six years ago. Now, I understand 2-3 inches may not be "piling up" to your thinking, but it is in this area.
I miss having snow! It brings with it a pristine beauty that blankets the neighborhood in silence. Fallen and frozen in place, it transforms eye-sores overnight. Even an old auto junkyard becomes a fascinating work of architectural wonder when snow-kissed.
With or without snow, winter becomes a welcome writer's muse for me. Looking out my window on the bare branches and frosted ground, I contemplate our blessings. We have a warm home and enough food to eat. We have family and friends that love us. My plush pullover keeps the chill away, and a fire on the hearth sets the mood. For a moment, I am back in the neighborhood of my childhood ...
When snow fell on Oakwood Avenue, our neighborhood was transformed into a winter wonderland. I loved waking up to fresh snow, but when school was in session, it was particularly difficult to dash to the car instead of to the back porch to grab a sled.
Slumping in the backseat, I'd be unhappy with the ugly tracks our tires made in the new-fallen snow. Gazing out the back window as we pulled away from home, I'd sigh and resign myself to sitting inside a stuffy classroom on a perfect winter day. By the time we got back home again, the lovely snow would be crisscrossed and slushy from dozens of tires.
But not the woods! They were all ours when we returned, and they would still be untouched. Bundling up, we neighbor kids would meet up and head into our own magical kingdom. What made it especially wondrous was the fact we weren't ever allowed in those woods at any other time of the year...
That's when the threat of poison ivy, briars, ticks, mosquitoes, spiders and the occasional snake caused our moms to throw down the gauntlet. Hands on hips and eyebrows raised, their faces were set and their words sufficed. "No going into the woods!" I think some of us were secretly afraid there were monsters lurking down there in the shadows, so we gladly obeyed.
But winter snow -- with all its purity -- meant that spiders, snakes and all things sinister couldn't co-exist with its loveliness! So we donned our snowsuits and boots. Freed from parental regulations and our own fears, we dashed, trampled, twirled, climbed and eventually lumbered along-- in heavy boots with frozen toes -- through the mile or so of woods that backed up to neighboring yards.
In the hour or so of daylight left to us, we sang, hollered, teased and laughed, our voices ringing out in the stillness. We designed forts, threw snowballs, explored uncharted territory and reveled in our personal winter resort. Towering, bare branches, frosted with ice crystals, provided a canopy that completed our winter castle.
Around here in Alabama, our own three children delighted in the infrequent snows we've had. One year we actually had six inches piled up! A bit better description of snow piling up, eh? Another year, an ice storm shut down everyone's electricity for days.
Thankful for a wood stove, we stayed warm and cooked enough stew on it to keep our bellies filled. We also fried eggs in a black iron skillet and tried our hand at "fried" cookies, which turned out quite tasty! During that power outage, we read Laura Ingalls Wilder's books by kerosene lamplight and considered our plight an adventure.
By day, all that ice came in handy for skating and sliding across the pond. In the evenings, when the kids brought the cows up to the barn, they would approach the frozen pond in fearful confusion. Once a couple of them stepped on the edge, a great rush of water popped through the hole they'd made, and others would crowd around to join them for a drink.
Ahhh ... winter's muse ... It reminds me to reminisce, to write and to rejoice in the simplicity of fresh-fallen snow. I hope we see some in Alabama this year. Just give me an inch or two for a couple days, and I'll be glad to go back in memory to Oakwood Avenue once again!