Like Out of Nowhere

remember when we forgot the feel of snow?

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner

First it’s the dry, white flakes wisping around the sidewalk, icy crumbs gathering in the cracks. The sky is cold and colorless, but the snow, the first of the year, turns a boring afternoon in late autumn into something to talk about.

Sure, there isn’t much to talk about. But hey, it’s snowing outside, go look. Before long, the wet heavy stuff will fall, and in half a day the world will change in the most ancient of ways.

It’ll look different. It’ll feel strange. 

My kids go nuts the first time it snows each year. Early in the morning, I can’t wait to whip open the curtain hiding the big patio door windows and see what they do when they see what they see.

“Can we go outside?” they always, always ask.

No, Small Child, are you insane? You are barefooted in summer pajamas and you need to brush your teeth and wash your face and you’d probably catch bronchial-pneumonia-diarrhea-flu and who has time for that and are you insane?

It’s less than 30 degrees outside.

But would it really matter if you just popped the lock on the patio door, ripped it open and – with only a smile – gestured out to the yard with open hands? 

Without a word, you could offer free passage to the Spectacular Outside, no strings attached. Would it be so bad? They’d tear across the threshold, crazy, leaping out onto the lawn. They’d dance and flail in the snow, lost in the wild shivers of bare skin on crystal water.

The flakes would melt in their tangly hair.

For a few minutes at least, until their caveman survival instincts kicked in, triggering the IT’S SO COLD! IT’S SO COLD! alarm fixed deep inside their brains. They’d scurry back inside, breathless and giggling. And they might remember those small, frosty moments forever, even after they’ve grown crooked and senile. 

And who cares if they tramp all over the carpet, their bare feet caked with snow and all the wet, dirty leaves you didn’t rake up?

I do. But maybe one of these days I can figure out my priorities.

Kids forget the feel of snow. Can you imagine how wonderful that is, Adults Reading This? Can you imagine being so absorbed in each of your moments as to completely forget the feel of snow? When the first snowfall hits, many of us grownups love it. But a kid? A kid wakes up in a whole different galaxy constructed of tiny ice crystals. Every damn year.

Maybe some day we’ll invent a machine or a drug or a hot rock massage technique to erase sensations from our memory. And on that day, what would you chose to forget, knowing you could feel it all over again but anew? Would it be snow? Holding hands? Kissing? Stuffed-crust pizza? Riding a bike or hurling a rock-hard baseball through an old barn window?

For a few fleeting years, biology grants us the reckless gift of forgetting. Remember? We used to be those kids, and it was us who forgot the feel of snow. So each winter we let it consume us, from the flushed tips of our noses to the warm walls of our ribcages to the bottoms of our feet, stinging and red.

It fell from the air above, so we ran outside and plowed into it. “Frost bite” was just some weird thing our parents babbled on about like chewing with our mouths open and picking our noses.

Can’t you see it? Snow! It’s falling from the air above, like out of nowhere.

From thousands of feet up over our heads it comes twirling downward onto the grass and the street and the rooftops. It’s cold and soft and you can clomp it into ball. You can slide across it like you have no weight. You can let it melt in your eyelashes.

Jeez people, it’s snowing outside. Go look.