Snow! Snow! Snow!
A cold crisp Willamette Valley morning in early December brings, like clockwork, a wave of nostalgia over me. I become begrudgingly infused with Christmas spirit and a yearning for homemade sugar cookies, warm fires and yes, that four-letter word: s-n-o-w.
It’s the only time of year, the month of December, I mean, when the word “snow” may be spoken within my earshot and I do not automatically assume the fetal position.
I grew up in snow country. I loved every moment of it. I didn’t know or want any other life.
In anticipation of Christmas, there could not be too much snow. I enjoyed snow days right through the middle of March, but after that the winters dragged on, got old, and I would pray to see the sun on open water again. Sometimes that didn’t happen until late April. I distinctly remember one year when my Dad went snowmobiling on his birthday . . . May 4th.
But youth is plastic, it bends and adjusts, it does not scar easily, it learns. And youth is promise, the promise that each season will return on time and intact, over and over and over again. And eventually it would.
When I graduated from Mather High School, I left home and moved to Oregon. I lived there from 1979 until 1994. I loved it there, but with the end of my marriage, I felt I needed to regroup and headed back to the Upper Peninsula and specifically to Moccasin Lake, which lies thirteen miles south of Munising, Michigan. It is where I grew up. It is, was, and always will be “home” to me.
My first winter was literally and figuratively, a cold slap in the face. The White Christmas at Moccasin Lake was magical. Then it just kept snowing, and snowing, and snowing. And I kept shoveling and snow-blowing and salting the icy stairs.
After struggling to make a living in Munising for several years, I moved west to Marquette to work at Marquette General Hospital in 2000. I rented a tiny, tattered upstairs apartment that gave me a view of Marquette Harbor. When the snow started falling, reality came tumbling down on top of me, too.
It became abundantly clear to me that I despised the snow.
I lived across from a grade school and would be awakened by plows in the school parking lot at two or three in the morning. They came complete with backup alarms, and when you plow a parking lot, you back up a lot. I might get back to sleep for an hour or so at four, only to have the alarm go off at five. I’d shower, dress and start my car at 5:30 even though I only had a five minute drive and my shift didn't start until six. I would have walked the mile commute if only it wasn’t snowing so hard. If my car started, I would let it warm up as I shoveled myself an escape lane to the street. More times than I could count, I would get into my car and start to drive forward only to have a street plow blow by me, blocking me into the driveway again. This of course required me to get back out of my car and shovel again. By the time I got to work, I was a soggy, chilled, sweaty mess.
I wasn’t that rubbery kid who could fall down a dozen times a winter and not be any the worse for the wear. I was getting on in years and in attitude. I wasn’t as physically or figuratively flexible as I had once been.
I stayed on for three years. By the early autumn of 2003, I so dreaded the approaching winter, that I knew I would be moving back to a more temperate climate, and I did, and well before the snow fell, too.
Though I miss my family and friends, I have never regretted this move and figure Oregon is where I will stay. I have never once missed shoveling snow. But as I said, I do get homesick for snow around the holidays – and only around the holidays.
Thanksgiving and Christmas at Moccasin Lake were magical. Moccasin Lake hasn’t had a Christmas celebration since 1994. (It’s too difficult to keep the road plowed in the winter . . . go figure.) But I feel nothing but warmth when I think of those cold and snowy holidays of yore.