Monday, January 3, 2011

Southern Snow

“Here’s what I call snow.”

My grandmother, Tee Tee, is speaking.  We’re on our second glass of Chattanooga Blush, a variety of wine I love as much for its Kool-Aid shade of pink and muscadine magic as for the Biblical chiding on the front of the bottle, which references Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (NIV)

Well, we're filled with spirits at least . . .

She continues, “You can’t get to work and you can’t get to school, but you CAN get to the mall and the restaurant.  That’s what I call snow.” 

The meteorologists had speculated that our Christmas would be more white than warm, which means that we’ll celebrate any brrr-inducing blanketing of the ground by primarily protecting ourselves from foreign flakes.  A mad rush to the grocery store for hot chocolate.  Some kerosene for the heater.  A snowscape admired first though a pane then up-close for as long as we can endure.  (Before we realize that our boots aren’t designed for trudging through the drifts, that our cotton socks prove too thin for below freezing.)  

The one time I'd been caught off guard by the snow in Chapel Hill in 2003, my boyfriend and I had driven from hardware to grocery store for an hour after a cross-town power outage left us shivering in our little one-bedroom, sure that spooning was no match for temperatures in the teens.  Our search for firewood eventually led us to a man named Leon who took our 20 bucks in exchange for a bundle of wet timber.  We supplemented it with two armfuls of stolen newspapers and spent the next several hours building the most futile of fires, one that left the rug soot-stained and and made us wonder if we were on the verge of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Finally, he said, "Let's just drive to your parents' house, honey.  Neither one of us was made for this sort of battle with the elements."

Usually, southern snow is a ground dusting as light and unlasting as confectioner’s sugar on a waffle.  Northern snow, in my imaginings, might be more like the copious covering on the Louisiana brand of beignets: heaps of powdered piles at first delighted in, then eventually shoveled to the side once they’ve overstayed their usefulness.  Once you’ve had your fill and then some. 

I remember the first time I had beignets in Baton Rouge.  Two friends and I stopped into Coffee Call, a local diner-style beignet joint after an Abita pub crawl.  By the end of our witching-hour snack, I looked as if I’d weathered a bakery blizzard, with snowy sugar on my eyelashes, flecks around my mouth, white spots dotting my top.  Both of them, in black, managed to stay impeccable. 

“But how….?” I began.
“We grew up here.”

What must it feel like to grow up in a place where snow isn’t limited to special occasions, where it’s a chilly given of winter?  I’ve read that director Tim Burton thought of snow as magical because he never saw it in his native California.  One of my favorite movie scenes is his, when Edward Scissorhands carves an ice sculpture as Wynona Ryder’s character swirls beneath it, savoring a snow unknown to her.

This year we had a white Christmas, just like the ones I (didn’t) used to know.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Tara!