After a month of singing “White Christmas” and watching North Pole-related movies such as “The Santa Clause” or “The Elf on the Shelf Story,” the dream of seeing snow finally came true for my children. It might have been a little late for Christmas, but it was a magical way to ring in the new year.
Hints of a snowstorm began swirling around our family on New Year’s Day. “It’s supposed to snow in Charleston later this week,” my Dad announced as our extended family was gathered for a hearty meal of black-eyed peas, Carolina Gold rice, and collard greens during our yearly vacation on Hilton Head Island.
I dismissed this news right away because, as anyone who’s lived in the Lowcountry for a long amount of time can attest, there’s always a teaser of snow in the forecast. It rarely delivers. But as I rode my bike to the beach that day, I was whipped by a frigid wind and 35 degree temperatures under an ominous sky, and I began to believe in the possibility of some flakes because it was freaking freezing.
After saying goodbye to my relatives, who all were returning to Texas, my family of four came home to Mount Pleasant on Tuesday afternoon. There was just enough time for my husband to make a grocery store run, then we settled in for a long winter’s nap (oh wait, that was just me).
My two Southern children, ages five and four, were giddy with excitement that night, making plans for optimal snow shenanigans and asking questions like “Have we ever seen snow before?” (answer: yes). “Has the dog ever seen snow before?” (answer: yes).
The prospect of a storm was less exciting for me and my husband, who were both raised in the North, New Jersey and Ohio, respectively. Although it did let us reminisce and share stories about our favorite cold weather activities — he would go sledding with friends, I would go ice skating on the lake near my house.
When Stormaggedan 2018 hit on Wednesday, it started off as a slick mix of freezing rain and light sleet.
My kids were so excited that they burst outside at the earliest flurry, but it was still mostly just wet and cold. Finding the right winter gear for everyone also proved tricky. After fifteen years in South Carolina, our supply of hats and gloves is a rag tag assortment of items that were acquired during seasonal purges (“Maybe you’ll need this?” my mom asked when I was home on winter break from college one year, referring to a green Jets muffler that made me recoil) that have miraculously survived many moves tucked away at the bottom of coat closets.
My husband made do with teal gloves, with the furry fringe hidden behind his jacket cuffs. My son Wolfe wore a white and green pompom hat with Montville High School on it, a subtle shout out to my Jersey peeps. He had also outgrown his boots, so at least his sister could wear them, but he was stuck with an old pair of sneakers with holes in them — which led to many complaints afterward about having wet feet. (Mom mental note: BUY BOOTS = LESS WHINING!) My daughter, Selah, insisted the only gloves that fit her tiny hands were a pair of threadbare striped mittens. I was just impressed that I could cobble together four matching pairs of gloves at all.
Although their first foray outside was a bit premature, it did lead to much anticipated cups of hot cocoa. Of course, as soon as we came inside, the real snow began to fall, so much so that within about a half an hour, a neighbor knocked on our door, and we quickly got bundled up again. This time, the snow was thick and the ground was covered and the flakes kept falling — the big kind that stay in your hair and you can see each pattern — creating a winter wonderland found mostly in dreams.
Our neighbors were all outside in our cul de sac, marveling and laughing at the surreal storm around us. Kids ran and rolled and threw snowballs and made snow angels in the street. Dogs bounded about freely, tongues flailing, giant flakes sticking to their fur. We built snowmen, drank spirits, and took lots of pictures to preserve the moment.
Later in the day, after cleaning up wet clothes and staying warm by a fire, it was fun to see all the photos on social media of friends making the most of the wintry weather.
So even though the extended winter break and staying indoors is making many families stir crazy — most notably, mine — I keep thinking of the significance of this snowy experience, and the special memories that will sustain my kids for a long time. Or at least until the next snowfall (which hopefully isn’t for another decade or so.)