We are in a timeless limbo. The moments when our son Avery is in front of the church in a small group talking with the pastor are moments when we as parents must hold our breath and pray that nothing he says will be held against us. He speaks nothing but the truth, but there are truths that need not be shared in front of the entire Presbyterian Church in Ocala, Florida. We didn’t think we had so many of these truths until they threatened to slowly unravel in public.
“It’s Christmas time,” the pastor tells the children gathered around him. “Do you know what that means?” Their answers are pleasant and mild. “Presents,” says one. “Baby Jesus,” says another. “Snow,” responds Avery.
Avery was born in snow. It was March, but the snowy season in Pennsylvania lasts long past a reasonable winter time and threatens to claim Spring Break. He is only in the second grade, but he has seen the snow in Asheville, North Carolina and even in Florence, Alabama, which is in our immediate rear view mirror. He likes playing in the snow, watching it fall, rolling around in it.
The pastor asks him where he has been living. Avery explains. “Well,” the pastor says, “I’m afraid it doesn’t snow down here in Florida.” Avery responds immediately, “Why does God hate Florida?”
It’s clear to Avery that if God cared at all about the Sunshine State, he’d allow it to snow there. Florida must have committed an awful sin to warrant such punishment. Pride. Thinking it was better than other states, maybe. Just because it is a rare vertical state amid a country of horizontal states. How many other vertical states are there? Florida and California only spring to mind. If some bizarre crime has been committed that makes headlines around the country, it’s likely that it happened in one of these two vertical states in my experience. Just saying.
“God doesn’t hate Florida,” the pastor tries to explain. “Then why won’t he let it snow here?” Avery retorts. I recall the pastor at this point demurring to us saying something like, “That’s a meteorological question, not a theological one. Your parents can explain weather patterns and latitudes better than I can.”
I can understand Avery thinking that snow carries a blessing. There’s something holy about snowfall, so pretty and pristine as it covers the ground. Gorgeous and sweeping and perfect.
When I was a child, we yearned for snow. At the first hint of snow or even the vague possibility of it, the schools in rural North Carolina where I grew up would all shut down. The superintendent was deathly afraid of school buses skidding down snowy roads and falling into ditches. Several times in my youth we were given an unplanned vacation due to snow that never actually fell from the sky.
We didn’t get that much snow in Salisbury, North Carolina. When we did, we ran out to enjoy it. Whipped up snowmen, had snow cream and sledded until we were frozen nearly to death. A huge paved hill near where we lived was our favorite spot to sled. Someone constructed a snow ramp, and we commonly flew through the air for about ten feet before landing roughly and continuing down the hill. When you are young and indestructible, you don’t think of cracking a rib. You just play in the snow for all you’re worth.
When it was Christmas time, we headed to my grandparent’s house in Asheville, North Carolina. One time I had just gotten a pair of red snow boots. It was doubtful I would need them often where we lived. But when we got close to Asheville it was snowing. My dad drove the car slowly through the snow, but with a sense of urgency to get to the house before we could be stranded. We made it to the bottom of the hill. My grandparent’s lived up a steep twisting driveway where their house sat on top of a hill. “We walk from here,” my dad said.
I broke out my new red snow boots and proudly trudged up the hill in them. No one could have been happier. I had a White Christmas with my family. We felt blessed.
We left Florida after three snow-free years and moved to Carolina Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina. Another place unlikely to get much snow. But it did snow there, twice in fact. Once, there was enough snow to cover the beach. We went out past the lifeguard stand and walked a ways down the pristine white stretch of snow-covered sand. It felt bizarre, but good.
We live in New York City now where there is snow on the ground as I write this. A good three inches fell and is slowly turning into an icy slush. It was the second substantial snow this year. During the first one, I made the mistake of wearing tennis shoes. I slipped and slid all over the sidewalk like a novice while the people I was walking beside trod securely in their heavy grooved snow boots.
If I could go back in time, I’d whisper the facts of snow in Avery’s ear.
God does not withhold snow from a land out of hate and spite or bestow it only on those who abide in more righteous climates. If we want to chase snow, God is fine with that. He blesses us all with the chance to leave snowless states by dint of hard work and opportunity and find our way to Snow Paradise where icicles form on a daily basis and snowmen can live for weeks at a time.
One day you will live in Manhattan. Blessed with snow, a holy white abundance of flakes will cover the world as far as the eye can see. Trees, cars, fire hydrants and sidewalks will be covered in white. Snow flakes falling fast and furious as if they may never stop falling. It will be up to you to enjoy each one of them.