First Snow

May 25, 2009
By
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I take the first brave step into the sparkling crystals of a New Year’s Eve snow. The bare trees rest in the stillness of the night, their branches receiving another winter’s gift. The evergreens wait patiently, bringing in another year as their emerald boughs become more laden with a perfect snow. Cringing I look back at my footprint disrupting the gleam of a late night storm. The yard before me is spotless, completely untouched. Yesterdays slush and gray completely covered in a fresh blanket. Quietly, large flakes gracefully fall onto unexpected eyelashes causing them to melt and mix with the tears in the corner of my eyes from the chill of the night. The flakes fall in a steady rhythm, each one unlike the one before, such a contrast against the bluish black of the dark night sky. Every breath lingers in the air as the sharp chill of winter burns down my nose and throat. The cold of the night’s air leaves as I watch the snow fall. The pure white of the storm leaves no boundaries or divisions of yards, no roads defined, and the ground is purely covered by snow. Slowly turning, I admire…SMACK!
A perfect snowball against my shoulder disrupts my winter wonderland and is followed by the squeals of the troops leaving the warmth and safety of the glowing house. Tucker, my Old English sheepdog, barks at the excitement, shattering the silence of the night. Spraying the white behind him, Tucker pounces. Six grown men tromp through the snow pushing and shoving each other into the embankments, acting like young boys instead of fathers, grandfathers and uncles. Following the brothers comes the next generation. Twelve bundled up kids’ race from the house to join me. Each kid sporting their own unique color combinations of coats, hats, scarves, and boots. The youngest one, only four, reveals the smallest amount of rosy cheeks pressed firmly between the matching lavender scarf and hat. The younger boys run as fast as the snow allows, falling occasionally just for fun. Tucker chases them, as he prances along he barks enjoying his new game. The older girls and I huddle together, a mesh of heights and ages only semi protected by a lone tree. Our teenage wisdom knows that one snowball is not all we face. The younger ones giggle in anticipation as a solemn alliance is formed. I loosen the scratchy wool of my scarf that is draped around my neck preparing for war. Pulling my hat down over my ears, I warily peer around the tree…SPLAT!
Another snowball hits its target, this time onto my unprotected face. The cold wetness of the snow runs in trails from my cheeks. The stinging disappears with the numbness of my nose and left cheek. I duck behind the tree piling snow in front of me as I hear the deep chuckles of the thrower relishing in his success. Carefully I round and compact the sphere of snow in front of me as I scan for a victim. My mittens provide an added challenge to the distance in which I am able to throw. The wet chill of the snow begins to creep up into my snow pants from kneeling. Guarding my ammo, I stand prepared to join the fight. Armed and ready I take a running start and release. The snowball flies…PLOP!
With a quick side step, my snowball deflects. My creation disappears into the fallen snow, and I quickly retreat to the nearest hiding spot, another tree. Behind this tree rests a cousin and teammate. Recognizing her ability to throw the snowballs with great accuracy, I am demoted to snowball maker. I dig deep past the fluffy top layer of snow and into the perfect sticky snowball snow. Quickly I create a mound of perfect throwing snow balls. Deciding to save our ammunition, we wait patiently for a prime target. A brave man approaches our hiding place, and snow ball in hand, she chucks it into the air…SPLATTER! THUMP! THUMP!
The snowball hits its target square in the stomach, but not before the “back up” sent two more snowballs into our hide out. Thankfully, the tree took the blunt of the blows. With the count of three and a screech, we burst from our hiding spot and run across the open yard to the safe zone, the snow covered deck. Three snowballs pelt my back, penetrating through the puffy shield, my winter coat. One snowball hits my weak spot, the opening of my scarf, and the icy cold liquid runs down the back of my neck. Clenching my teeth, I wiggle awkwardly to relieve the goose bumps crawling down my flesh as I continue my sprint to safety. Diving behind a sled shield, I sigh; relieved I have made it to safety. Overlooking the yard, a discouraging lump sinks into my stomach. The younger boys have traded sides. Abandoning the girls, they joined the men and the apparent winning team. The young girls lay far out in the yard, content in their snowball free world. They lay in the snow creating snow angels while trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues. When they think no one is watching, all the kids, fifteen and younger, grab snow to melt it in their mouths. They eat snow frequently enjoying the naturally refreshing treat. The older girls collaborate behind their plastic sleds, a fortress from the constant fire of snowballs. Their secret plans of attack muffled by the scarves wrapped around their faces. CRACK! THWART! THWART!
Snowballs rain down on the plastic sleds, but none hit a target, because all are safe behind the shield. The war has turned more into a game of dodge ball. The dads move around the sitting target, us girls. With a few more whispering words, the plan is put into action. Each girl assigned a duty. A diversion running amongst the open yard prepared to sacrifice for the team victory. The snowball makers each create a snowball must be perfect in order to truly count in this victory. Designated snowball throwers. Then there is the secret weapon. The sneak attack throwing snowballs from less than one foot away. Everyone is set into position and the green light is given. Unprepared dad turns…SMOOSH!
The snow sticks to his eyebrows and eyes as he begins to flick it off. Upon collision a rush of cold flooded through his brain. His face registers as surprise, either from actually being hit or the cold of the snowball. The shock wearing off, he bends down to grab some snow. Quickly he forms a ball. Cupping it into his hands with a few pats, the snowball is ready for action. With years of practice, he winds up and lets the snowball sail…SMACK!
A final snowball finds its target. The pelt of the frozen snow stings on my arm. Exhausted, I raise my hands in surrender. The bitter cold that once disappeared now clutches every part of my body. Trudging through the snow, I make my way through the heavy snow too tired to lift my boots out with every step. The troops pile back into the warm glow of the house. The moms expectantly hover in the entry way prepared to strip the soggy clothing from the frozen children. The squeal of the tea pot calls from the open door. Imagining the creamy warmth of the hot cocoa I rush to the door. Standing on the front step, I try to dust the leftover snow from myself…CLUNK! CLUNK!
My boots stamp the frozen concrete, leaving white shavings behind. I turn, watching the continuous snow fall. The once peaceful and smooth snowy yard now bears the chaos of a New Year’s Eve snowball fight. Prints from every foot going in every direction litter the snow. Leftover snow angels decorate the far corners of the yard. One unfinished snowman stands in solitude. A scattered maze from an exciting chase is left among the footprints. An hour gone by and my picture of a quiet winter wonderland became the purest picture of a true family. A perfect snow has fallen in the early hours of a brand new year. With the purity of fresh snow, the New Year paraded in the love of a family, the joy of childhood, and the peace of new beginnings. HAPPY NEW YEAR!





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