You may not believe it, but many of us in Southern California are waiting for snow over the next few days. The temperatures have dropped, the rain has arrived and we are waiting with hope. It can happen, I know, because it snowed a few years back. Yes, palm trees dusted with the white stuff — it was quite a sight.
It was one of those strange, sweet coincidences—all my children slept soundly and late. Not even the heavy downpour pelting our windows that cold November morning could stir them. And my husband and I were more than happy to ease into the day curled up with coffee and the Sunday paper.
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All was calm, except for the rain that ping-ping-pinged at the windows.
Then, something extraordinary happened. We knew it the moment we heard it. Or, should I say, the moment we didn’t hear it. It was a sensation that brought us back to an unmistakable, thrilling memory of our childhoods spent in the Midwest.
Amazingly, the driving rain halted, but still fell. It had shifted into the soft, unmistakable hush of snow falling. My husband and I shared a knowing glance before racing to the panes and looking out to see what we knew we’d find—fat, blinding snow flurries raining down and carpeting our front lawn.
Big deal, you say? If you live in a region where you experience the seasons, then these kinds of snowy mornings might be fairly common. A nuisance, even. But, we live just an hour or so from the sunny beaches of Southern California. This was practically a miracle.
We ran upstairs, roused the kids and dragged them—sleepy-eyed and hair-mussed—to the front door and excitedly pointed to the vision materializing outside our home.
“Snow? Mom, is that snow?” my son asked.
We quickly piled on jackets and hats (baseball caps were the best I could manage) and let them run outside to raise their faces and marvel at the sky.
It didn’t take long for an entire neighborhood of children to spill out into the cul-de-sac, eyes wondrous-wide, tongues outstretched for a cool treasure. Parents followed behind, tentatively clutching their housecoats and looking skyward for some explanation of what was happening.
For a full hour, the snow came down—hard. Eventually, some of us pulled out lawn chairs and sat in our open garages to watch as glistening ice blanketed palm fronds, lush bougainvillea blooms and red-tiled roofs.
As the grown-ups gripped steaming mugs of warmth, children made quick work of the snow, rolling and cupping it into small spheres. The quiet awe had passed and now there was only raucous fun—snowballs whizzed through the air and walloped windshields, snow angels fluttered on every available patch of grass and miniature snowmen cropped on sidewalks.
But, as it always does in Southern California, the sun strained through the clouds and, by ten o’clock nearly all the evidence of our morning mania had vanished. All that was left was a pile of muddy pajamas, a ruined heap of slippers and some clammy, wet kids all in dire need of a warm bath and breakfast. With all the work ahead of me, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t have reined them in sooner.
But, I was moved. The children had scrambled to capture this precious memory in their hands, only to have it melt away as quickly as they could grasp it. It reminded me that moments like these are rare and if you want to savor the delightful gifts of the present, you need only follow a child.
So, I do not regret the extra work or the baths or the interruption to my quiet morning. Nor the cold, the rain, or even the mess left behind.
I only wish I’d joined them.
*Parts of this essay were originally published on November 13, 2013 on EducatedWriter.com.Kerri S. Mabee