Snow – Everything about it reminds me of my youth. It reminds me of my parents. And, It reminds me of growing up in South Bend, Indiana. The snow always seemed to be piled high from November through March. Every year. Not just on years that were considered “the year of the polar vortex,” but always. You could count on a beautiful white blanket of snow throughout winter just as sure as you could count on presents under your tree on Christmas morning. The two-way neighborhood roads would turn into single lane paths that you’d wield your car down. Snow piled high on both shoulders along your way.
Maybe this is why I still love the snow so much. It’s beauty takes me back to my childhood. And, to a time when I was living under the same roof with my 4 siblings and my parents. Every year you knew that as the temperatures plummeted, the snow would come. Still, there was always something so pure and magical about looking out at the first snowflakes falling.
Our hearts seem to forever stay childlike in that we will never get over the thrill of going to bed at night when the earth outside our windows is a field of frozen, dormant grass and waking up the next morning to the loveliness of a thick mantle of white snow and frozen tree branches swagged heavily with silvery icicles hanging off each tip. The sun shining a bit brighter because of its reflection off of the bright ground.
South Bend is famously synonymous with two things – Snow & Notre Dame. My parents worked at Notre Dame pretty much all their married lives. Our home was fairly close to the campus. As a teen, my friends and I would ride our bikes across town and spend time tooling around the different quads that made up the campus. This was mainly in the summer when the students were on break. The campus felt quiet then. And Empty. And it felt like ours. It was beautiful, lush with flora and serene. And for the most part, we had it to ourselves from June through August.
On many of those long summer days, we’d pop into my Mom’s office to say hi. We’d visit for a while and talk to her co-workers sitting at their desks, piled high with paperwork, framed pictures of family members, typewriters and coffee cups. On our way back out again, we’d pass up the bank of payphones and we’d stop by the vending machine in the lobby to buy a soda for .50 cents. Then we’d get back on our Schwinn bikes and ride across campus to my Dad’s office and do the same. “Hi Dad! How’s it going?! Do you have a few dollars I could “borrow?”
Summers felt long back then. The days went on forever and the time went by at a snail’s pace. But eventually, the warm days of summer would slowly turn to fall; a favorite season for so many because of the relief that came from cooler temperatures and the beauty of the changing colors all around you. ND Students would return for classes. My siblings and friends and I would go back to school. Before you knew it, the first snow would be at your doorstep, peaceful and white. Filling you with an unexplained inner excitement and youthful joy.
The changing seasons always remind me of my parents. Because of where I grew up, winter and snow remind me of them most. This week here in Chicago, it snowed a little. Just flurries. But, in South Bend? They got loads of it. It made me think of my Mom and Dad. It brought back such sweet memories of youth. It also made me miss my parents – especially my mom, who we lost in February of this year. I miss her so much.
As I watched the weather reports on TV with news of the heavy snow coming down in South Bend, I smiled. Whenever the first snow would come, I’d always call my Mom, “Hey Mom!, it’s snowing!” And then she’d say, “Oh Honey, we are getting so much snow! You should see it!” She knew how much I loved winter. She thought I was nuts. She did not love it as I always have. She saw it as work, like most adults do. She’d call me often about the piles of snow and would tell me how she felt trapped inside. I would just laugh and tell her not to worry – “I’ll come visit you, mom! You don’t have to drive in it!” And, I did.
I’ll always love snow and the sense of renewal and peace that comes along with it. It will always bring back sweet memories of my beloved parents who are now gone. I’ll welcome it every year and be sorry when the last of it melts away. Snow. Such a wonderful part of the winter season! “Hey Mom!… South Bend got a ton of snow this week……”
“Everything was frozen, and yet it all appeared so beautiful. … Yes, like little children, in spite of the cold, we went from one extremity to the other, perfectly enchanted with the marvelous beauties of our new abode”
– Fr. Edward Sorin