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First Snow
by Amy Kenneley

I'm ready. Boots by the door, snow shovel in place. Scarves, winter coats, gloves all waiting in the front closet.

Himself stares out the window at the threatening clouds. " I hate winter!" he says to no one and everyone. The cat curls up on herself and settles down for a nap. She and I ignore his declaration.

Yes, it becomes harder to navigate in winter drifts than it used to be. And we seem to be colder in winter than we used to be, too. But I am determined to be cheerful, because this is only the First Snow, and if I close my eyes, I can remember the delight of other First Snows….

White Muffler

It came during the night, and waking in the early morning, I could sense that something had happened. Everything was too quiet. Pulling on the shade with the crocheted handle, I raised up to a white world that had dropped onto the city while I slept.

The city had put on a big white muffler, wrapping the sharps of metal and stone and the echoes of alleys into cotton ball quiet. I raised the sash where the fluff of snowflakes freshly strewn invited a quick scoop and taste. Mmmmmmm-"that's what Heaven tastes like," mother had told me.

The snow had filled in the black hole of night, so that I could almost see in the dark. Softly, veils of flakes were settling down onto city streets, and the street light outside our apartment, the traffic light at the corner of Hough and Crawford Road, and the pink glow of the " beer joint" across the street all took on a mystical glow.

Even the sad deer, hanging from a huge hook in front of the beer joint (someone's trophy from a hunting trip to the country) was sporting a white pelt, and the blood that had dripped onto the sidewalk and into the gutter yesterday, was blessedly covered.

City Sounds

Today I would go to school more willingly. I had a new pair of red rubber boots, and I still fit into my snow jacket and snow pants from last year. The long knitted scarf wouldn't be needed just yet-this was the gentle version of Cleveland winter. The blast of Lake Erie ice pellets was yet to come.

By the time I trudged to school, the city was already shaking itself from the nightfall. The hair-raising scratch of metal snow shovels and the "pfffft-pfffft" of brooms announced the cleanup. The garbage cans in the alleys all had jaunty whitecaps, like giant mushrooms.

I could hear the clank-clank of snow chains on the tires of the driver of the 1940 Plymouth as he rattled his way down Hough, turning the bend and disappearing toward Rockefeller Park. The crossing guard had now donned her winter knit cap, forcing her white crossing guard hat down over it. She blew her whistle shrilly, and even that sound took on a husky tone.

School Snow

In the schoolyard, new games were played-- snow angels, snowball fights, took the place of hopscotch and jump rope. Inside the classroom, wet mittens festooning the silver radiator gave off a sheep-wool smell, and galoshes with buckles fell sideways in puddles of melting city snow.

By the time school was out, the magic was over for the First Snow. Hundreds of tires had traversed the asphalt streets, leaving a chocolate splatter along the curbs. Soot from the factories had deposited black spots on windowsills. Footprints of cats and dogs had appeared and disappeared along the sidewalks as they wandered, as vagrants or with their masters, back and forth on the path to home. Brown slush prevailed. A day's worth of city busy-ness had sullied what had begun so pristine and heaven-sent.

But I was still happy, knowing that after this First Snow would be a Second Snow, and a Third, and on and on until everyone would be heartily tired of winter. Then, forgotten and unremarked, a Last Snow would arrive, but I would not remember what day that was.

Another First

I can tell my age by consulting the calendar from this past winter. Plainly marked on a spring-hopeful square I had written "Last Snow." The TV weatherman had confirmed it, and I had memorialized it. I was more than ready for daffodils.

Soon will come a new winter, full of interesting things to do, yet embroidered with snowflakes throughout. I will become exasperated with wet puddles in the kitchen, the unsteadiness of my booted feet, and the constant dread of the dead tree outside our living room finally crashing in a storm.

"Here it comes," Himself declares, pointing in the almost-darkness. Large, fairy-tale concoctions of nature drift against the window, lazily floating down where only days before, leaves had trailblazed. He will be at war with winter for several months now.

I say nothing, knowing that as I sleep, our home will be snuggled in a blanket of Lake-bourne insulation-- deadening sound, promoting a reading-fest from our bookshelves, and guaranteeing a multitude of animal tracks to identify.

And yes-in the morning, I will crack open the window, inhale the fresh, cold air, scoop a handful of the night's gift, and taste the First Snow again.

Mmmmmm. It DOES taste like Heaven.



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