46. The 129-Year Snow

46. The 129-Year Snow

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The 129-Year Snow

Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.

~Andy Goldsworthy

People have long thought me crazy because of my love affair with snow. When I was a kid my dad said I only liked it because I didn’t have to drive in it. As an adult, my husband says I only like it because I don’t have to shovel it. But I think they’re both wrong. I love it because of that bit of childhood magic that lives inside me, quiet and sleepy, until awakened by a fresh snowfall.

And Christmas? Well, Christmas just isn’t the same without snow. I love the way a heavy snowfall wraps the view outside my window like a sparkling gift. I love bundling up to search for the perfect Christmas tree, and I love shaking fresh snow from the branches before we string lights and hang ornaments. I love the cozy feeling of burrowing under the covers on Christmas Eve while the winds howl outside, and then waking up on Christmas Day to find a million diamonds glittering in the snow. I love the drifts, piled to the rooftops in places, and the icicles, crystal clear and as tall as I am.

There was a time I couldn’t imagine Christmas without all these things, and I never thought I’d have to. But then, one day, everything changed with a single phone call. My husband accepted a job offer down south, and before I knew it, we had packed up all our household things in Wisconsin and moved to Georgia. Amid all the craziness and excitement over our move, a small thought crossed my mind: Would Christmas in Georgia be white? It was one of the first questions I needed an answer to, and shortly after we arrived I asked a friend at church. Her smile brightened, and for a minute I was hopeful. Then she said, “Oh, you’ll love it here. We hardly get any snow! One year it was seventy degrees on Christmas Day!”

Seventy degrees? On Christmas Day? I smiled and tried not to show just how disappointed I felt. I could handle a mild winter, but this news nearly broke my heart. I decided that even though she had lived in Georgia her entire life, she had to be mistaken about this. I stubbornly waited for my Georgia White Christmas.

But of course, it never came. The years passed and each Christmas was greener than green. Shiny magnolia leaves waved against a bright blue sky. There were times it was so warm that I wore shorts and flip-flops while I decorated the house and left the windows open to let in a balmy breeze. It felt wrong. All wrong. My northern family and friends, as well as my husband, continued to think I was crazy for missing snow. But to me, it always felt like something was missing.

Then one year, when I least expected it, I got my Christmas miracle. It was late afternoon, an hour or so before sunset. I sat on the couch, crumpled balls of wrapping paper and empty gift boxes at my feet. Giggles and happy squeals sounded as the kids tried out their new toys, but I still felt sad. Christmas, my favorite time of year, was coming to a close.

I stood and tried to shake my sadness off. I turned on some Christmas music, pulled the curtains open so I could see the colorful lights outside, and set to cleaning up my living room. As I cleared the trash off the floor, my mind cleared a bit, too. By the time I plugged in the vacuum and ran it over the carpet, I knew that there was still more of Christmas Day to enjoy. And that’s when I looked outside. Giant, fluffy flakes of snow fell in the twilight sky. I ran to the window, heart beating fast, and pressed my face against the glass. I hadn’t imagined it. It really was snowing! On Christmas Day! In Georgia! Real, heavy, completely beautiful snow. That feeling I’d missed for so many years washed over me and filled me up with a thousand memories of Christmases past.

“Everyone! Come here! Quick!” I yelled, afraid the snow would disappear any moment. The kids came running and soon all Christmas gifts were forgotten as they scrambled to find their coats and hats. We had no boots or mittens, so they covered their hands in work gloves or socks and raced outside. As it grew dark, I turned on the porch lights so we wouldn’t miss a moment. The kids raced around outside, pelted each other with snowballs, and built snowmen in the yard. All the while, the snow kept coming, each flake filling my heart until it was full to bursting. When the snow slowed, and finally stopped, I stayed by the window marveling at its beauty. And, of course, its magic.

The next day I discovered one more bit of magic. It was like a surprise gift waiting beneath the tree. The last time Georgia had seen a white Christmas was 129 years earlier. I suddenly felt honored, humbled even, that I was there to experience what hadn’t happened in well over a century. And let me tell you… it was worth the wait.

~Debra Mayhew

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