I have always been confused by the song “Let It Snow.” I sang it at a caroling party last week, which was timely, since Dubuque had its first real snow that morning. It seemed like everyone I knew had been nervously wondering when it would finally arrive, and when it did, it was white and heavy and wet, leaving the birds at our feeder quite bewildered. Where did all that corn on the ground go?
That song, though, really does not bear close analysis. Let me demonstrate:
Oh, the weather outside is frightful (Okay, that can be true)
But the fire is so delightful (What fire?)
So as long as you love me so (Huh?)
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. (Right)
Okay. The scene is set. Bing Crosby is stuck inside with his gal, and it’s snowing to beat the band, maybe a full-blown blizzard. He says it’s “frightful,” after all. But there’s a fire in the fireplace, so he’s warm, and he knows his gal loves him, so, well, let it snow.
It immediately becomes clear that our Bing was no meteorologist. He seemed to think the only problem a major snowfall could create was being cold. Had he never walked through the snow, driven through the snow, tried to get up Loras Boulevard in the snow before the plows have been deployed? It seems to me that cold is the least of snow’s difficulties.
Besides, I’ve noticed that when it snows, it’s usually not that cold. I’m no weather girl, but my outdoor thermometer registered 36 degrees at the height of that Sunday snow. (And why, I ask you, is there no word like “downpour” for a heavy snow, like there is for a heavy rain? I can only think of one verb, too – “It snowed.” But when it rains, it can pour, or sprinkle, or mist, or drench, or spit, as my mother used to say.)
Still, snow is kind of cool because it can fall as sleet, or big Queen Anne’s Lace flakes, or my personal favorite, graupel. The more popular name for graupel is tapioca snow, which just sets my heart singing, it’s so funny yet perfectly descriptive. If you’ve ever seen those minuscule snow balls collect on your car’s windshield or land in your mitten, you know what I’m talking about. Useless for creating snowballs, but adorable just the same.
Someone on my Facebook page asked the question, “Why is there snow?” and then attached an informative, purportedly scientific explanation from Wikipedia, which I didn’t bother to read. I was more interested in seeing the varied responses from my far-flung friends. One complained about the 84-degree temps she was enduring in Florida, becoming nostalgic for the snow days of her youth. Another recent transplant from the Midwest to the East bellowed, “BRING IT ON!” (I need to check Baltimore’s weather to see if his challenge was met.) My best friend, in California just north of the Bay, was enduring a massive rainfall while we were trying to remember what we did with our shovels.
Snow is what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls. When you are little and coddled, you get to awaken to the sound of your parents clearing the driveway while the furnace hums away. That’s just about the sweetest memory I have. When you are little, you don’t have to worry about sliding off the road just outside of Maquoketa, where the ditches are like bathtubs. When you are little, somebody bigger than you wraps a scarf around your face before you trundle off to school. Let’s face it: these days, if you’re little, you probably go from your heated house to your heated car to the front door of your heated school.
Maybe the carol writer had it right, and it is all about keeping warm. But just try cross-country skiing, or the incredibly taxing sport of snowshoeing, and tell me how cold you are. Or, hey kids! Grab a shovel and clear that driveway yourself! You’ll soon be tearing off the scarf and hat they made you put on.
That’s the thing about snow. Not the cold, but the quantity. The way it piles up and creates all new parking patterns at the mall. The way you can make it into a fort, as well as cannon balls. The way it piles up on our steep, steep driveway before turning it into a luge. (Hey, neighbor guy! I wouldn’t park right across from our driveway if I were you!)
It doesn’t snow as much as it used to. I know this makes me sound old, but it’s true. It used to pile up and not melt, so the next snow fell on top of the previous piles, and then it would just remain there, getting dirty. Ah, dirty snow, I remember it well.
My favorite memory of snow is one that I did not live through myself. This was my father’s story. It doesn’t have much of a plot. He was driving to Minnesota, probably to see some relatives, when his car got stuck in the snow. This is not something Dad’s car often did, because he was one of those guys who put chains on his tires. But he was stuck. It was not a bad memory, though, because he came prepared. In the glove box was everything he needed while awaiting a tow – a chocolate bar, and a bottle of peach brandy. Now there’s a man who knew how to enjoy a few flakes. Let it snow!