STEALING FROM CHURCHILL

It's snowing today in Denver. The high temperature will be in the twenties. The wind is blowing hard, and it cuts through your clothes and shakes your bones- as I just discovered while walking my dog Padfoot. Most of the state has either a winter storm warning, or a blizzard warning. By most standards, it's pretty miserable outside. And yet,  I love it. Hamlet may have found providence in the fall of a sparrow, but I find it in a snow flake. Whenever the gods send the white stuff, as it starts to slowly drop down, I take it as a supernatural sign, a medicine for melancholy sent by Raven and Loki and all who have gone before me. I am not alone in this belief. Countless movies use snow as the signal that all is right in the world; as do songs. Look at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life". George Bailey is on the bridge where earlier that very night he was contemplating suicide. Now, he desperately wants to live, regardless of what happens. He pleads, "Please God, I want to live again...I want to live again." And what happens, to let us know all is well? It starts to snow.

It only snowed once in San Jose when I was a kid. For one day in February, the gods smiled and sent a message that all would be well. The day had not started out very promising. I awoke to my sister Heather screaming, and my first thought was that my step-dad Vern had done something horrible. I had just gotten the worst hair cut ever at his drunken hands (see previous blog). But after a moment, it was clear that her cries were joyous ones, and that she was screaming "It's snowing! It's snowing! Oh my God! It's really snowing!" I looked down to see is my brother Jerry's bunk to see what he thought- but he wasn't there. Something strange was happening. Something alien and fantastical. I leapt out of bed, and ran to my window. There in my backyard was magic, White Magic from on high. The impossible, always hoped for yet never expected, had arrived. On my street! Snow. It couldn't be real...yet there it was. I dressed in about two seconds, pulled on a never used beanie over my head, and ran outside. It was everywhere. My entire street was carpeted. In all my nine years, I had tried to imagine what it would feel like to see snow on my street, but none of those attempts at visualization did justice to what lay before me. Up and down the street, kids were running around, screaming and yelling and laughing and throwing real snowballs. Real snowballs! Rarer than any gem. I looked upwards- and the sky was full of snow flakes. I caught some on my tongue. I made a snowball and threw it at nothing in particular. I jumped up and down. The whole world was a giant toy shop, and all the toys were free. And I was part of it! I ran up and down the street. Some kids were trying to make a snow man. Other kids just throwing snow up into the air. I saw Jerry and Heather up the street, and ran up to join them. And then I said words I never thought I would be able to say.

"It's snowing!"

We all ran around, insane with joy. A snowball fight broke out, and we all joined in. And then a snowball knocked my beanie off. I didn't really care, but I noticed some of the kids staring at me. Andy, one of the older kids on my street, who had a penchant for being a sarcastic jerk, pointed at my head, and asked, "What the hell happened to you?".

In all the excitement, I had forgotten about my hair.

Andy started laughing. "Jesus, McAllister, you look like Frankenstein." I tried to think of something to say, but there were no words. Besides, Andy was right. I looked like a freak, a mutant of some of some sort. Other kids started to gather around me and Andy to see what was going on. "Who cut your hair like that?", Andy asked. I couldn't tell him my step-dad cut it in a drunken rage last night- our insane home life was a humiliation we kept to ourselves, a secret shame that we were all certain would ostracize us forever from the other kids if it ever came out. So I said nothing. "Who cut your hair?", Andy asked again. "The Shopwell Barber", I lied. Andy started to laugh. "Frankenstein! McAllister looks like Frankenstein".  The other kids started to laugh, and I started to cry.

Then Jerry stepped forward.

"Andy",he said, "you're right. He does look like Frankenstein. But you're an asshole. And in a few months, his hair will grow up, and you'll still be an asshole." I didn't know at the time that Jerry was paraphrasing Winston Churchill- I only knew I was saved. The kids all laughed at Andy- who wandered off to pick on someone else.

Soon, it was time to go to school. We begged and pleaded with mom to stay home, but it was no use. We trudged off to Strawberry Park Elementary, past other kids with parents wise enough to let them stay home. At school, all the kids were running around the big field, screaming and yelling and doing whatever we could with the snow. I threw a snowball at a girl named Amy I thought was cute, and got sent to our principal Mr. Van Workem's office. As I sat in the office, the sun came out, and I watched the snow melt away. I didn't mind all that much. For one brief moment, when I needed it the most, snow had come to my world. And when the snow failed, my brother stepped in.

By the end of that day, my new nick-name at school was Frankenstein. I never did tell any of the other kids who really cut my hair.

Now that world is gone- mom and Vern and Melvin the Great have all left this world, and Jerry and Heather and I all have our own lives and homes. But in spite of all that, or maybe because of it, I still often find myself drifting off to sleep, hoping against hope that I will wake up in the house on Belvedere in the land of Strawberry Park, and that when I do I'll hear my sister running up and down the hallway, her little girl's voice repeating the magic word:

"Snow...Snow...Snow!"






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