German Files: Discovering Snow

“How many weeks do you usually have snow where you come from?” my dad asked as we sat around waiting for our Jucy Lucys to be delivered a few weeks ago. Without missing a beat Juli replied “a few weeks, maybe three or so.”

“Oh honey,” was all I could say with all I could say through a smile, “you have no idea what is coming for you. Iowa gets four to six months of snow, not one.”

Matt's Diner, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The smile seemed to stick to her face for a moment as the impending reality seemed to finally sink in. Juli and I have spent a lot of time over the last month talking about the coming winter (game of thrones much?) and she always told me she was used to it. Something about being German, but the importance of warm wools, of socks and sweaters always seemed a little less urgent to her than it did to the rest of us. Perhaps I was too ominous in my descriptions, I have been known to be melodramatic on occasion, but winter here is not for the faint of heart.

Oh honeyyou have no idea what is coming for you

In Minnesota the weather was lovely and here in Iowa as well. Last Monday I sat in the central square on campus and called family to send them love and sunshine as I ate my lunch outside. I knew what was coming the following day and come it did. Last week winter howled down from Canada. They keep calling it the beginning of another polar vortex and jet stream mellow drama aside, it is just a part of winter here. (Pardon any repetitiveness, but there is a point here to drive home. Winter. Wind. Cold and Snow. For months. I love it, but we are getting to that.)

it always takes three snows to stick

A week ago we woke up to the first white world of the season. Not much, but enough to hide the grass and coat the cars. Juli and I (both being morning people) got to enjoy it, but soon the snow fled before the sun. Juli was sad to see our first winter-scape disappear, but it always takes three snows to stick. Three snows, Tuesday one, Thursday two, Saturday three. 

Juli watching the snow fall.

Juli watching the snow fall.

Saturday morning the world was frosted with snow and ice. It glittered like a snow globe and the clouds dumped a steady whirl of snow dancing to the ground. “It’s like Christmas!” Juli said, watching the world with contagious joy. “Well no, but it is pretty. Hopefully we will have a foot or more by Christmas” I said. “how much?” “a third of a meter” “really” “I hope so. A Christmas without snow is like one without Santa or family.”

I might have insisted it wasn’t Christmas yet, but I was soon cajoled into listening to bad (sorry Juli) Christmas music from the 70’s and 80’s. They were all songs she listened to on Christmas with her family and we talked. We wasted away the morning listening, drinking Christmas coffee (pretty much tasted like the usual) and discussing family traditions during the holidays. It might have been the second weekend in November, but for a minuet the holiday spirit permeated the air. Juli had been asking when we would put up Christmas decorations for a while and for a minuet I considered breaking my post thanksgiving rule.

“Please?” she asked, her face filled with excitement and her bottom lip stuck out for effect.

We both went our separate ways to get ready and the magic of the moment was lost. I apologized for my hasty change in opinion. We both went about our day, without decorations, occasionally insisting that one or the other of us should come to one or another window to see how beautiful it was outside. (Though all of the windows in our apartment face the same direction so I am not sure how different the view could be.) Though by the time the last of the weak winter light had left the sky we had about half an inch (1-2cm) of soft, cold and glittering snow on the ground.

It wasn’t half an hour later, Juli and I were sitting in our living room, when she asked if we could go outside. Sitting cozily in my favorite spot, my computer purring away on my lap, I declined her offer. Who would want to leave such a lovely space? “Please?” she asked, her face filled with excitement and her bottom lip stuck out for effect.

Her expression reminded me of watching a kid ask to meet Santa. It reminded me that, while I was excited, this we my norm, not hers. So I tugged on my rain boots and grabbed my coat, while Juli prepared for an arctic expedition.

Out in the fresh snow.

Out in the fresh snow.

As we clomped down the stairs of our apartment and into the snow-globe we now inhabited Juli was too excited to even remember to lock the door. (you should understand that is kinda a BFD) I noticed halfway outside that Juli didn’t have mittens on so I gave her my mitten and glove (don’t ask) because I knew she wanted to ‘feel the snow.’

Walking out the door the world sparkled yellow and white in the glow of the street light. The last few flakes of snow danced and whispered their way to the ground. The world seemed called into silence. It was magical, a moment almost to pure to be real.

Looking like an ice princess.

Looking like an ice princess.

We walked down our block and I suggested that Juli make a snow angle. “Where?” she asked. Pointing with my elbow at the lawn next to our building Juli followed my directions and scampered over to the adjoining driveway, where a large patch of untouched snow presented itself. Plopping herself into the middle she went at it like a pro and in a minuet she had swept an angle out of the snow.

All smiles she asked if it was ‘good enough.’ “Ja,” I said, “but wait I want to take a picture.” Smiling she indulged my need for ‘pics or it didn’t happen.’

What about winter makes you excited?

What about winter makes you excited?

Snow angle completed I traipsed around to the back of our building, heading towards warmth. My toes were turning into toesicles and no amount ‘big bottom lip’ was changing my mind. (I should have followed my own advice on wool socks)

Petulant feet followed me up the stairs. By the second floor I couldn’t stop laughing at the solid pout radiating at my back. Soon enough my laughter warranted an explanation and we both laughed our way into our apartment.

The whole day reminded me to embrace my own joy towards the season. It can sometimes be hard to hold on to why I love winter; especially when arctic winds and icy opinions berate me on the daily. Juli sees it all with new eyes and it inspires me. I just hope she can hold onto this feeling of wonderment throughout a winter which promises to be a fierce one.

Have you ever rediscovered something amazing you once thought to be the norm? How do you keep your spirits up during winter?

Until next time,
Keep on Smiling,

Two guesses at who made this angle.