When I was growing up in North Dakota, we had long, harsh winters, lasting at least five months. On Halloween night, we often wore our parkas as we went trick or treating on snow-packed sidewalks. By Christmas, the snow drifts would be high and sparkle in the moonlight, as the days get really short when you’re that far north. On February 2nd we always laughed at the stories of Groundhog’s Day. Six more weeks of winter? That was our minimum! Still, I didn’t hate the snow, even if I had to shovel it. If it was snowing, it had to be relatively warm, not much below freezing. On a real cold snap, zero degrees or negative, there’d be blue skies with maybe a few misty clouds above. Even the sun looked chilly on those days.
In my early twenties I moved to sunny Arizona, and after the long miserable summer was over, the fall and winter months would be glorious. Christmas, however, didn’t seem right. Even if there was a little nip in the air at night, there was no snow. Palm trees, green grass, flowers blooming – it was a real travesty. For the first few years, I kept saying we’d move back to the north country when my (first) wife was done with graduate school, but that never happened. With us as their foothold in the desert, our families began moving south. Soon we had more family in the Phoenix area than anyplace else, so we stayed.
Still, I miss the snow sometimes in December. There’s something magical about walking home on a quiet night with it crunching under foot. Or better still, big wet flakes fluttering in the street lights, making your steps as quiet as a cat. Or wintry mornings when we’d all go to the big hill with our sleds and saucers and even refrigerator boxes, to climb up and slide down, again and again and again.
As people get older, their memories become selective. We forget being cooped up in your house by a blizzard for multiple days. We forget getting our car stuck in a snowdrift, or it’s refusal to start at all on a cold day. Or how one of the cattle might wander away from its shelter and freeze to death, and you’d find its dried out body in the spring.
Yet we remember the good things, and there’s nothing wrong with missing them. Yes, I miss the snow around Christmas. It’s a good thing that Flagstaff is not far away.