My changing perception of snow

Published 2:53 pm Friday, December 31, 2010

With all that fluffy white stuff that coats Hampton Roads finally beginning to melt, I began to look back on a childhood of snow. Though I can’t remember my first experience with the precipitation that countless schoolchildren have prayed for over the years, I do remember what it meant to me.

It meant waking up at 5 in the morning and flipping on the TV in hopes that the ticker at the bottom of the screen would list my county among those whose schools were closed for the day.

It meant fighting with Mom about the amount of clothing necessary to allow my sister and I to stay out in the snow as long as humanly possible.

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It meant tying our sleds to our dogs and getting them to forge the first path for our sledding adventures.

It meant that falling down was an excuse to make a snow angel.

It also meant chilly toes and fingers, but those were just an excuse to drink as much hot chocolate as we could stomach.

One year we threw water down our hill to create ice and sprayed cooking oil on the bottoms of our snow saucers in an attempt to go fast enough to launch ourselves into space. We only ever succeeded in crashing into the fence at the bottom of our hill, but we never stopped trying.

In short, to my much younger self, snow meant fun, in its purest form. We looked forward to snow like it was actual candy falling out of the sky.

And it’s a little sad to admit that, as I’ve gotten older, my opinion of snow has changed quite a bit.

As an adult, snow now means something you have to prepare for. I have even come to look toward impending snowfall with annoyance. My younger self would be so disappointed in me.

Snow now means buying salt and snow shovels so you can keep from falling on your bum when you go outside.

It means you, not your parents, are responsible for digging your vehicle out of its snow trap.

It means, for many adults, figuring how to make it to work without driving off the road.

It even means wondering whether that increased heating bill is really worth soggy shoes and nail-biting trips to work or the grocery store.

And, in Suffolk, it has meant that police have had to respond to 144 car accidents during the recent snowstorm. Thankfully this year, most of these incidents involved cars sliding off the roadways and becoming stuck in ditches. Very few injuries were reported as being caused by weather. With more than 10 inches of snow blanketing the area, it could have been far worse.

So, even as I recognize the beauty of falling snowflakes or how tempting it is to speed down a snowy hill on no more than a thin saucer of plastic, I always view snow as the factor that might be the reason another red bulb is added to the Pilot Club of Suffolk’s Safety Tree. And that is more than enough reason to view snow with a healthy dose of caution.