Cold Feet

November 17, 2008
J.B. Priestly once said, “The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found.” Isn’t that what every young child is searching for- to be enchanted?

It was January and my fourth birthday. I was determined to receive a gift that reached beyond the captivity of boxes and wrapping paper: snow. Because I live in Mesa, this was not a present that my mom could run out front to shovel for me. Instead, we decided to take a weekend trip up to Flagstaff to ‘unwrap’ my gift.

On the car ride, I fidgeted in my car seat and constantly scanned the passing landscape to catch my first glimpse of the “winter wonderland.” My eyes lit up when I saw a bulky patch along the road. My forehead furrowed though; it had not looked anything like the pictures. It was compact, not fluffy. Dirt and black smudges of asphalt peeked through what should have been white and glittering. I shrugged my shoulders in response to my older sister Erin’s similar confused face and resumed my anxious dance.

After a while, or what was really a few short minutes, I felt the car slow and glide to a stop. We had arrived at what was rumored to be the best sledding hill around. My dad exited the van and pulled open our side door. Immediately, a chilly gust of wind struck my cheeks and commanded chills to march across my skin, kicking up goose bumps on my arms as it advanced. I was shocked, for some reason, that it was truly bitter outside. I waited for my sister to escape the confinement of the car and then as my purple velcro sneaker hit the icy blanket, I took a sudden gasp of frozen air. It stunned me that as my foot sunk in, it was abruptly filled with snow. My socks greedily soaked in the glacial water like sponges.

I awkwardly walked to the back hatch with a grimace on my face, attempting to step as lightly as possible. I whined and begged my parents to go home and forget this whole disappointing experience.

They refused to let Erin and me give up so quickly and forced us to walk back to the hill. I reluctantly agreed but pouted the entire way. Trudging along, I occasionally glanced back to our increasingly shrinking car but mostly watched my shoes and the bottoms of my soggy jeans.

My mom then let out, “Okay, we’re here,” with a sigh. I raised my head and saw a towering mount of crunchy, overused snow. I tugged at my dad’s sleeve pleading not to make me attempt to sled. He told me I had to make an effort once, and then he would let me decide if we would stay.

My mom took my hand and began to pull me along the tree line to the peak. I looked back to Erin’s face that stared back and shook slowly with eyes as astounded as my own.

When we reached the top, I could see my dad and sister only as tiny specks. Okay, maybe not that small. I plopped down on the green, plastic tray and wondered how this was thought to keep me from tumbling back to the bottom. My mom sat down behind me and asked with an expectant grin if I was ready.

I violently shook my head, but after a moment she urged, “It’s now or never,” lifted her feet, and gave us a shove.

Frosty air filled my lungs and dried my eyes. My ears and nose tingled, and my fingertips went numb through my mittens. I urgently grabbed at the rough handle on the sled. Terror filled my small body, firmly grasping my consciousness. Behind me, I could hear my mom screaming and laughing, and I could feel her holding onto my shoulders as if protecting me from being engulfed by the monstrous hill. Clumps of snow and fallen twigs vibrated under the sled as I watched the blur of evergreens fall past us. Wind screamed in my eardrums, but I could finally sense us losing speed.

Relief flooded my body as we stopped, and I got up abruptly to tell my dad I now wished for home. He laughed, but after he and my sister plowed down the hill with the same response, we all started back to the parking lot.

I had never been so thankful for the heater in my short four years of life. We drove to our hotel, and I spent the rest of the weekend “admiring” the snowfall from the other side of our frosted window.

Looking back on those events, I now acknowledge the truth buried in the clichéd caution “be careful what you wish for.” I cannot base my expectations on fairytales and catalog pictures- waiting to be enchanted. Although Priestley’s quote is extraordinary, I also believe it to be wishful thinking and as fleeting as snow fall. Carl Reiner’s passage fit my reaction much better that day: “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”

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