First Snow

Early delights of the season



We woke up on Monday to two inches of snow.

My kids were thrilled. I was wary. Although I’ve been pining for a snowy winter over the past three years of rain and ice, I guess I didn’t want it to start quite this early.

My six-year-old-daughter bounded downstairs in her pajamas and opened the front door to check it out. I stood behind her in my bathrobe. A whoosh of frigid air swept inside. Under the porch light, the snow was so bright. It had made white acorn cap hats on our two pumpkins waiting at the front door to be carved.

The railing had a perfect ridge of snow along it, and the front steps were white and trackless. Clumps of snow clung in the bare branches of the alders. That is a beautiful sight.

The six-year-old ran upstairs to report to her dad. “There’s enough snow to cover the pumpkins!” she exclaimed. “This much!” She held her hands about eight inches apart. “Really?” my husband asked with a chuckle.

I think my daughter actually believed her own words. There was enough snow to cover the pumpkins, in a way. Two inches of snow seemed huge to her, and hugely exciting.

The kids got ready for school a little bit quicker yesterday, even with the added responsibilities of packing snow gear and mittens. My four-year-old put her snow pants on for the ride to her preschool. She’d be well prepared for the 10-step walk across the parking lot to the front door.

“Mom, I love winter,” the six-year-old said to me on the way to school. The light is dim at 8 A.M. these days when we make the short drive across town. “There’s so much to do,” she explained.

The first snow of the year is exciting—but also a wake-up call. My friend totaled her car about a quarter mile from her house at a bend in the gravel road she now calls Two Cop Curve. When I drove her home last night, we passed a truck flipped in a ditch. Everyone will be lining up at the tire places to get their studs on.

“You’re not going to want to hear this,” my father told me over the phone from suburban Maryland yesterday afternoon when I mentioned the snow. “It’s 80 degrees here.” My dad thought I might be envious. Some days I am. But my daughters are experiencing something so different. When they strip down to T-shirts in 50-degree weather, I remember: they’re Alaskan kids.

When I picked up my older daughter from school, in the long down coat I’ll now wear for the next six months, she was so excited to show me the beach ball-sized snowball she’d created from the thin layer of melting snow in the school yard. In the process of rolling it around to build it up, the snowball had picked up wood chips and gravel. She didn’t care.

By Tuesday afternoon, despite a light rain melting everything, snow boulders dotted the small field at the elementary school. My daughter and her friends were at work digging the insides out of the huge snowballs—turning them into giant snowy bowls. It seemed obvious to them that the snow they’d removed had to be packed into an old white dish tub and then dumped into a tube slide that lies—unattached to anything—in whatever spot on the playground the kids have most recently left it. The crook in the tube was starting to fill up.

There is a lot to do in winter. We are ready for it.

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Miranda Weiss is a science and nature writer. The author of Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska, she also wrote the Northern Lights blog for our website.


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