I am Canadian. I was born in York (now renamed Toronto), Ontario, Canada. I have lived in Canada all my life. Culturally speaking, I am a cross-breed. Heritage-wise, my upbringing was full on “small village” Croatian. This encompassed types of food eaten to language spoken in the childhood home; all pure village-Croatian. There are however, very strong parts of my upbringing that are 100% Canadian and shall always remain as such. The one major part is what most people think when they hear about Canada or think about Canada: snow.
Snow…that wonderful white blanket that covers the green grass. Those little flakes that fall from the sky gently and quietly. You might hear a whisper of snow as it lands upon your puffy coat. “Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes”, as song by Maria VonTrapp (a.k.a. Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music. As children we were disappointed if we didn’t have a white Christmas. I recall actually being at midnight mass and praying for snow. Imagine my elation when I, prayers granted, left church to see the ground covered in 2 inches of snow and more falling down. Yay! Snow! That wonderful, magical, wintery, fairy dust from the sky. Well, not so much anymore. Why? I am now the designated shoveler of said wonderful fluffy stuff. Happy? Heck no!
Snow is one of those interesting things that people yearn for if they are excited tobogganers or avid skiers. If you are the “driving-around-town” type, then snow becomes a disaster. There are those who do not recall how to drive in snow, making it a precarious game of pass or fail: pass the crazy driver who seems to keep fish-tailing, or fail and get hit by said crazy driver. Ahhhhh…snow.
I bring you back now to the snow-filled back and front yards of my youth. We had, what was called “packing snow”. This snow had some wetness to it. This was vital for creating the most formidable fortresses to hide in. This fortress was also the place where you stored the snowballs you made with this same mouldable snow.
Snowmen? Pshaw….best around! You might need three people to roll the snow in order to make large boulders, but it was worth it! That three-ball tiered snowman was a work of art!
Snow angels were also on the play menu. You dropped down in the snow on your back and waved your arms up and down like a bird, and moved your legs out and in. Once completed, you could stand up and leave behind a beautiful “angel” in the snow. Yes, the miracles created by using the white, fluffy stuff.
The hardest part of childhood winters was the dress up. Most of us did not have snow pants so we had two pairs of pants that were tucked into snow boots. Your coat had a hood with a drawstring that was tied tightly under your neck. The pièce de résistance was the scarf.
That magical impediment to play freedom. That scarf started around your neck, covered your chin and nose (which led to frost forming on the scarf when you breathed). Then, it was wrapped around your forehead leaving your eyes open. No peripheral vision and your hood usually slipped down making the scarf slip down so you usually walked with your head up high as your eyeballs tried to focus on what you were working on. I do recall waddling into the backyard and slipping INTO the snow. Yes, my body was submerged, but my scarfed-face was breathing air. My siblings did not rescue me. I was trapped…immovable (to their delight). Ahh…the good ol’ days. Then suddenly, it all changed.
Childhood is full of so many things that are fun and then we become adults and we are no longer permitted to enjoy the trivialities of life. Ponder this…jumping into a pile a leaves in the fall. Not fun when you are an adult because you are the one raking the leaves, not jumping into them. Snow? Again, if you are a skier then snow is great, but if you are not, then snow becomes something that needs to be removed. It is work. It is sweat. It’s not fun.
Lately, our Canadian winters have been a bit off-kilter. They have been cold (-20 degrees celsius) or super cold (-45 degrees celsius) and not as much snow. Initially I was happy to hear that. Three years ago all I did was shovel the stuff. I started feeling bad for little children because they would not be able to build snowmen or make snow angels. Please understand, I was NOT wishing for snow and yet…well…it seems like this new torrential snow onslaught is kind of my fault.
I love children and want them to be able to enjoy the same things I revelled in as a child. These days it seems that children have to be supervised 24/7 which gives them no time for freedom of exploration like we had. I recalled one day in seventh grade when I became friends with a new student from Florida. I recalled how thrilled he was when he saw snow. He had heard about it, seen pictures of it, but couldn’t imagine ever feeling it. His leaned his head back, stuck out his tongue, and waited for the flakes so that he could taste it and feel it. His exuberance led to a snowball fight (which I started so that he could get the full effect of the snowstorm). I guess that passion for life is what made me think about children and their lack of our Canadian birthright to snow.
So…I apologize. My “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” wish, which is usually reserved for Christmas, became my wish for Canadian children. I hope that schools are closed tomorrow so that kiddies can play with vim and vigor! I hope that I see snowmen all up and down my street and other neighbouring streets. I hope I get to hear the squeals of laughter and joy as they make snowballs and snow angels.
However, if I do not hear peels of laughter, then my “let it snow, let it snow, let it…” will become “STOP ALREADY!”
P.S. For some added fun, please read one of my favourite December-time reads. It is about a newcomer to Canada and their supreme desire to see and revel in the joys of snow. Diary of a Snow Shoveler.
P.P.S. Heading back out now…4 more inches have fallen…STOP ALREADY!!!