I would like to make a motion: Instead of asking people “Where are you from?”, we only ask, “What is your personal relationship with snow?” The second question procures the same exact answer as the first, but in a much more interesting way. Well, that’s my central theory. Because if someone’s explaining to you how much or how little they’ve experienced snow, aren’t they going to mention the places they’ve lived? But even if they don’t, I believe the second question would on average lead to much more interesting answers. You can give your location of origin with two words, maybe one. But it is much harder to so succinctly describe one’s relationship with an entire category of precipitation.
For half of my childhood, I grew up in a city that seemed to have a force field to protect itself from natural disasters. There were no hurricanes, no tornados, no earthquakes, no forest fires, and not droughts. Sometimes it hailed. But that was it. However, neither was there snow. Well, there wasn’t snow in any meaningful sense of the word. Sometimes there would be a flurry, and it would be extremely exciting, and school would get canceled, but that doesn’t really count.
For the other half of my childhood, I’ve been living in a city that’s slightly less immune to earthly phenomenon. There are tornados. But there was also snow. The year before I moved, my mom told me how our family friends here had gone sledding in their neighborhood. Sledding. That sounded up to part with Disney World. From what I remember, that was the grandest selling point of the entire move. (At 18, that would still be the grandest selling point.)
And then for the ten years after I moved, that kind of snow absolutely did not happen, not even close. Sometimes it iced. And maybe it even snowed a few times? I don’t even remember because even if it did, the flakes were so puny that they weren’t worth remembering. However, my first year in this new city, there was a tornado lockdown at school. I don’t remember myself being seriously scared, but that could very well be me fabricating a more flattering version of events. I do remember it being pitch black outside, like night. Did you know happened during tornados? I’m pretty sure I didn’t at the time. I also remembering the teacher reading us picture books (dude, I wonder if she was freaking out in her head), and this boy next to me was super scared. Like existential crisis scared. Which honestly, was probably the most logical reaction.
But apparently, occasionally, life does like to dole some literary perfection into our mundane lives. Because this year, during my last school year of living in this city, it snows. LIKE REALLY SNOWS. LIKE FOR REAL. When I looked out my window this morning, the road and yards were blanketed. You couldn’t seen any concrete, any black streets. (Wait, now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t say for sure what color the streets in my neighborhood are. Actually, they’re just tan, right?) It was a winter wonderland.
Last week when there were rumors of coming snow and teachers telling us to prepare for staying at home, I had exactly zero reaction. It’s like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Once you’ve experienced too much of the Weather Apps Who Cried Snow, you just stop getting excited every time. (Wait a second, gotta step in and fact check myself here. That is not true. I have friends who still get excited every time. Maybe this is just an area I get easily jaded in.)
And then yesterday, it started snowing. LIKE REALLY SNOWING. My mom had us go outside to take pictures, and a mother-daughter pair passed, carrying things under their arms that I couldn’t identify. One looked like a sheet of plastic, and the other looked like Captain America’s shield if it was copper. I called out to them and asked where they were going. They were going sledding at the hill nearby, they answered. Sledding.
Moral of the story: talking to people can sometimes lead to amazing outcomes.
I told my parents I was going too, and they were like, what? (From my experience, Chinese parents generally don’t believe in striving for yes.) Now what I needed was a vehicle. So I went to the cabinets above the oven and pulled out a metal tray, the kind you use for baking cookies. Again my dad was like, what? And I was like, huh, isn’t this what they do in the movies?
My dad and I went to our abnormally steep driveway to test it out. (He was very skeptical in the beginning, but I knew he would be drawn in by the challenge of it.) And it didn’t work. We also tried a classic cardboard box. Didn’t work either. And then my dad found a tire, which really didn’t work.
And now I need to take you back a few weeks for backstory. In December(?), our microwave broke. At first, my dad tried fixing it because he’s an engineer so he often believes he can fix our broken electrical appliances. But it didn’t work. So we ordered another one. And this microwave came in a box. But not any standard brown box. No, it came in a box that was glossy on the outside. Glossy equals low friction. On the box, there’s text that says Important, and then instructions about how you need to keep the box in case you want to return the microwave. Clearly, those are not the most crucial instructions. Clearly, you need to keep the box in case it snows and you need a sled.
We tested it on the driveway, and it absolutely worked. My dad used a saw to cut off the sides. And then we started on our trek to the promised hill. That is also when I realized my dad was planning on taking the saw with him. DAD YOU CAN’T TAKE THE SAW, I said. But in fact, he could and was going to. What if the sled needed adjustments after we got there? DAD YOU’RE GOING TO SCARE PEOPLE. No, he wasn’t, he said. DAD. Can you at least put it in a bag? No, this is fine, he said.
And so we started our trek. I carried my sled, and my dad brought his saw. (Okay, it’s not a chainsaw or anything, and it’s a smaller than normal saw, but still.) It took approximately ten minutes to reach the promised hill. In another life, the hill had been a golf course, but did you know snow is good at helping golf courses go through glow-ups?
Some of the other people had these things that I have learned are called snow circles. (I learned this because on the way, a neighbor had offered to look for hers to let us borrow, but my dad was like, absolutely no way, and played his pandemic card. And so we politely but gratefully declined her offer.) Other people had plastic toboggans. (Thank you Jocelyn.) There were also swim floats and actual sleds. And then this one guy BROUGHT HIS SNOWBOARD. There he was, navigating his own fate while the rest of us succumbed to the chance of the tracks.
And so with my DIY sled (there is no way I am going to have a DIY project more successful than this), I went sledding. I’m still having a hard time comprehending those words. Legit sledding. It was awesome.
What is your personal relationship with snow? Typing this, I realize my theory breaks down when it comes to the internet and trying to retain privacy.
Have you had any successful DIY projects?
What natural disasters is your home immune or not immune to?
What would you do if you’re electricity went out? The snow has been very nice, but it’s also caused bad power outages (I think because we’re just so unprepared). I’m the only person of the people I’ve talked to whose electricity has been on the entire time. Dang, snow, why couldn’t you just be hero without a shadow side?
P.P.S. Photo of an 1897 snowball fight. There’s also a video of it.