It’s snowing in Seattle! The weather people have been predicting it for days, and this time, they got it right. It’s a light snow, for now, but it is sticking, and the world has been transformed.
Snow always makes me giddy. Maybe it’s a result of growing up in L.A. The only time we saw the snow was when we took a trip to the mountains. We spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s with two other families at our aunt and uncle’s cabin near Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Our fathers and Aunt Grayce had all grown up in Brooklyn together, and followed each other out to Southern California in the late 50s. We were the last of the group to make the move in 1960. Everyone else stayed in Brooklyn, and we became family to each other.
There were eight kids among us: the three Melkonian boys, four of us (two girls, two boys), and Grayce and Dick’s daughter Mari, who is the same age as me.
We spent most of the day sledding and tobogganing on the roads and hills near the house, someone assigned to keep an eye out for cars. Piled two or three high on a toboggan, careening out of control, laughing so hard we’d fall off. We’d stay outside until our gloves were soggy, useless, and still the mothers would have to call and call to get us to come in.
Aunt Jane brought tins full of almond crescent cookies, like the ones that Stellaa makes. We’d sneak into the kitchen and eat between meals, for energy, we said, a tell-tale trace of powdered sugar everywhere we went.
At night we’d put on shows, turning jokes and riddles into one-act plays. (Did you hear the one about the nun and the priest playing golf?) The ones that were hardest to get through were the ones were someone was the storyteller and someone else was the hands and you put a big shirt on over the front so the grownups couldn’t see the person behind. Neal and Mari did it the best, he could always keep telling the story no matter what she did with her hands, tickling him, slapping his face, but the rest of us would always start laughing.
We performed on the balcony above the living room. There was a fire going and a Christmas tree on the porch and sometimes a family of raccoons would line up out there, their paws on the sliding glass door, looking in. We usually closed with a few songs, I played the guitar and the adults would sing too. Where have all the flowers gone always a good one, my Dad didn’t like it because he was a Republican and the war was still on, but the rest of us did, and the chords were easy, G-Em-C-D7, a standard G progression.
Two. New Hampshire, 1979
I am traveling across the country to live with my boyfriend, who goes to school at Dartmouth. I’ve taken two quarters off from school, to the chagrin of my advisor, because I’d never been in love before and we are ready to go all in.
It is January of 1979 and I get to the east coast at the same time as the biggest storm of the year. Of the decade, in fact. Our bus is the last one out of Port Authority. The snow is coming down thick and hard, like nothing I’ve ever seen. The roads are shut, cars littered on the side of the road. We make it as far as Hartford. Four of us decide to rent a car and drive the rest of the way. Sometime in the middle of the night they deliver me to the house that my boyfriend and I will share. He comes running out and scoops me up in a hug I’ve been waiting for my whole life. The snow keeps coming down, swirling around the streetlamp like music.
Three. Los Angeles, 1980
I am on a ride at Disneyland, like the Haunted House. Only as we pass through the graveyard I realize the gravestones are real, and so are the spirits that are popping up around us. One of them comes up to our car and stops us. We won’t be allowed to pass unless we can meet its challenge. I am surprised to find myself standing up, calling back with a voice that comes up through my feet and reverberates through every cell, filling the air. We are allowed to pass.
Then I am on the streets of Hanover, early morning winter. The streets are still quiet and I can hear the squeak and crunch of my footsteps in the fresh, new snow. The only activity is at the bakery, where the early morning risers are having coffee. The smell of fresh maple doughnuts wafts out across the snow.
At the edge of the street I come to a field. Beyond the field I see the mountains, snow-covered and glowing in a lavendar light. They are so beautiful it takes my breath away. I want to be in those hills more than anything I’ve ever wanted. I start running across the field on a path through the snow. Though my feet are bare, they aren’t cold.
At the edge of the field the path stops. I don’t know which way to go. A man appears and asks me where I want to go. I tell him I want to be in those hills. He asks how much I want it. More than anything in my life, I say. He smiles, and seems satisfied. He points to his left where the path is visible again. I take off. In one hand I have a book and in the other, a bundle of money.
Four. Seattle 1988
I am living with two friends in a shared house on the top of Queen Anne Hill. It starts snowing around 11 one night, the first time it’s come down that hard and the first time it’s sticking. Roberta and I are so excited, we have go take a walk. Katie is from Idaho and doesn’t understand why it’s such a big deal. But for Roberta and I, it is like Christmas has come early.
We are the only ones moving outside. The air is thick and quiet except for the crunch of our boots as we work our way down the hill to Parson’s Garden. It is hard to recognize the shapes under the snow, the trash cans and shrubs, her Volkswagon bug. The cedars look like brides, bowing slightly under the weight of the white.
Five. Seattle 2008
I live in my own house now. The fountain in front is a big copper bowl that sits low to the ground, spilling water over the edge to a hidden catch basin below. Birds love it all year long but especially now, when everything else is frozen. Robins perch along the rim and I feel a little like Snow White, ready to burst out singing.
The snow’s still coming down. I take pictures till there’s no battery left, and am glad I got the lights up early this year. This week I’m going to make crescent cookies, in honor of Aunt Jane. When the sun sets on the Olympics, they are bathed in a lavendar glow.