09 October 2011

The First Snow

When I was in elementary school, my class made paper snowflakes. I was not any good at it. I always folded the paper incorrectly and/or cut the wrong side. Each time I thought I was ready to unfold my triangle to reveal the beautifully symmetrical design I instead ended up with a pile of scraps on my desk. After several failed attempts my teacher folded the paper for me, and stood next to me while I cut the edges. I placed my scissors and then waited for the approving nod indicating that the intended cut would not completely destroy my project. I anxiously opened up my paper ready to see the long-awaited masterpiece of a snowflake. I was disappointed. Some of the kids in my class produced exquisite and intricate forms. I thought mine was rather boring and, quite frankly, ugly. It was not a shining moment in my life.

We took our completed snowflakes into the hall where the teachers had covered the wall with a large calendar of the rest of the year. We each guessed when the first snowstorm would be and placed our snowflake on our forecasted date. The assignment indicated with acute clarity that I did not have a future as either an artist or a meteorologist. Despite the dismal failure of my snowflake cutting and weather predicting ventures, I enjoyed the project. I minimized my embarrassment by writing my name in tiny letters on the back of my snowflake so that no one would know that the unsightly ill-placed prediction was mine.

When I started teaching in Texas I was saddened to learn that snowflake cutting was not part of the standard elementary school curriculum. I thought this oversight left a severe gap in my high school students' education, and set out to rectify the matter. Armed with a few more years of life experience and a Bachelor of Arts degree, I took to the internet and searched for paper snowflake instructions. I hid alone in my bedroom to work. When I felt competent enough, and didn't fear that it would be utterly humiliating, I moved to the kitchen where my roommates could supervise the effort. After a few attempts in my kitchen I mastered the skill to the point that I could explain it to the kids.

The day after Thanksgiving break I started each of my classes with cutting snowflakes. The kids did an excellent job and did some amazing work. Every single one of them put my childhood attempts to shame. There isn't really a first snow (or any snow) in Texas, and I didn't think the administration would approve of my making the hallway wall into a calendar, but I felt that their accomplishment should be displayed in some way. I called a friend and we spent the hours after school hanging almost 200 snowflakes from my classroom ceiling.

Now we live in Idaho, and we spend nearly six months of the year covered in snow. Despite the length of the winter I still think that the first snow is magical. It is simultaneously peaceful and exciting. Although snow signifies the beginning of shoveling the driveway and salting the sidewalk, for a moment everything seems calm and still. The dying grass suddenly looks as though it has been sprinkled in glitter, and the trees take on an icy angelic look. The dropping temperatures make me wonder how I will keep a hat on my infant when we need to venture out into sub-freezing weather, but I still enjoy sitting inside with some hot chocolate and watching the silent precipitation.