Snowflakes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Lititz, PA
It was a Monday morning in the winter of 2008. We woke up a few minutes late-strangely without any panic from our mother-and looked out our windows to find a substantial snow on the ground. The hope and excitement of a snow day rose in our minds as a two-hour delay was announced on the radio. Mom was already making a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, a rare treat for us during the school year. While my older sister lazily went back to sleep, my brother and I ran around the house, grabbing our snow clothes from various closets. Then we walked downstairs, loaded like pack mules by our armfuls of heavy winter clothing. We pulled on our heavy coats, pairs of socks, snow pants, gloves, hats, and boots by the roaring fire. When we had finished wrestling with the garments in the process of getting them on, we were so bundled up that we could barely move. The heat from the woodstove and our winter wear made it almost unbearably hot, but we patiently waited for each other to embark into the winter wonderland awaiting us. (At that point, however; one of us was bound to have to go to the bathroom or something, prolonging the routine).

After that, we tromped out into the chilly garage. Our two dogs were shaken from their cozy naps as their attentive, delicate ears picked up the sound of scuffling boots and familiar voices. They anxiously whined as I hurried to take them out of their crates. Snickers, my four-year-old Chocolate Lab, must have caught our nervous energy, because she came running out and nearly knocked my brother over with the force of her friendly greeting. But we were in a hurry. We hastily clipped the blue nylon leashes to the cold metal D-rings on the dogs’ matching collars and led them over to the side door.

There’s something about taking that first step into a snow storm, walking on a wind-smoothed surface not yet broken by anyone’s footprints… Momentarily, the window’s frost clouded our view, but then we entered our very own Narnia. The fierce, beautiful power of nature struck me, as it always has. Like frosted, feathery sparkles; snowflakes floated to the ground. The muffled whirring of a heating system at our neighbor’s house and the blinding reflection of the sun on the snow welcomed us. Sharp, crisp air burned our lungs as we inhaled. Suddenly, my attention was yanked, literally, back to my dogs. I can still feel the leashes being pulled roughly through my hands by both the dogs’ excitement. Good old Honey plodded through the snow, eating some of it, snuffling, and looking for a place to go to the bathroom while Snickers danced around me, testing the limits of her leash, and rejoicing in the pure fun of snow. She continued to eagerly strain on the leash, convincing me to get moving. All four of us trod through the 12 inch blanket of accumulation all the way to the outdoor kennel.

After getting our canine friends situated outside and giving their soft, thick winter fur a few gentle pats, we made snow angels in the front yard. With the dark outline of the maple tree towering over us, we methodically moved our arms and legs to create impressions resembling heavenly creatures. I just lay there awhile, letting the intricate snowflakes gently descend on my face, fusing into water droplets almost instantly as they melted against my cheeks. A few settled themselves on my eyelashes, causing them to flutter with the cold sensation. With all the finely tuned nerves weaving through my skin, the touch of each snowflake was barely discernable. I could sense just a whisper of contact as they brushed ever so lightly over my nose, which I suppose was cold enough itself to keep the frozen particles from dissolving. Then, heaving myself to my feet, I got up and brushed myself off. the following moments were customarily spent studying the complexity of snowflake patterns, catching them on our tongues, and sucking on icicles we discovered hanging from our wooden picnic table.

A few minutes later, mom yelled out the back door: “Olivia…John,-it’s canceled-school is canceled!” her voice breaking the fragile silence of hushed snowfall at 6:30 AM. Regardless, we were thrilled and each let out a resounding “Yes!” We now had the whole day to ourselves.

John and I have always made a snow structure of some sort, no matter what. We’ve even built snow-bunnies in past winters when there is only a disappointingly trivial amount of snow to work with! Presently, we grinned at each other with the accustomed-to anticipation. We each started with a compact snowball, and rolled them across the ground. As they picked up mass-and a few leftover leaves from fall-we established where the final project would go, and who would make the biggest ball of snow for the bottom. We called ideas and directions back and forth across our yard, subconsciously realizing that the world was waking up. I could hear spontaneous bursts of excitement from kids playing in the snow up the street, the occasional bark of a dog, and the hum of vehicles carefully navigating the slippery roads on their way to work. I still remember the grinding scrape of snow shovels; and loud, good-natured conversation between our neighbors…After we parked the bottom snowball in the agreed-upon spot, we used all of our young strength to heft the second snowball on top of the first. On went the project until the snowman was complete: with pebbles for his eyes and smile, a carrot nose, pieces of gravel for buttons down his generously rounded belly, and one of our discarded scarves carefully arranged around his nonexistent neck. We surveyed our work with a special sense of satisfaction that only comes from collaboration, specifically as siblings. But the bustle of our eagerness to finish the snowman simmered down; our teeth started to chatter, we could barely move our frozen-stiff fingers, and our soaked clothing started to weigh us down, and we came to an unspoken agreement. Finally realizing our exhaustion, we admitted to ourselves that it was time to go inside.

We reentered the side garage door defeated by a hard day’s play. Tromping over the concrete, the enclosure was just like the outdoors minus the cutting wind and the resistance of dragging our feet through a foot of snow. The familiar brown door leading into the house swung open, welcoming us with heat wafting from the same woodstove that had made us uncomfortable only hours before. Peeling layers of snow-saturated winter wear off our chilled bodies, our frozen fingers screamed at us to stop. Going from prolonged extreme cold to extreme heat was causing intense aching and throbbing in our hands. But we couldn’t relax until all our snow clothes were hung up to dry on the wooden laundry rack, and with resolve we finished the task. Down to the first layer of “normal clothes” and still soaking wet, we edged our way closer to the fireplace to warm our numb fingers. Mom very graciously brought down a gloriously warm, dry set of clothes for each of us. We changed in turn, downstairs in the small, dilapidated bathroom.

Outdoing herself, our mother called downstairs to let us know that she was making hot cocoa. There is nothing like a mug of hot chocolate after a long morning in winter weather…and I appreciated it more this snow day than I ever had.

For me, playing in the snow has taught me to be creative and that doing something mindless is often therapeutic. Also, I’ve learned that simply taking a moment to study the complexity of nature brings tender, peaceful radiance; and to do what I can with what I have, where I am.





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