A bowl of snow

Deep in the night, it came.

I wake to the sound of it falling.

A faint, feathery swishing against the bedroom windowpanes. A silvery glow at the blinds, beckoning. I crawl out from under the warm covers to peer through.

It’s a different world. Softer. Purer. At peace in its perfect winter-white blanket, illuminated by the full moon. Big flakes descend to the ethereal stirring of wind chimes.

I imagine animals curled in their cozy dark burrows.

In the spirit of affinity, I return to mine.

I waited well into the morning before texting my son: Is she so excited?

His daughter, age five, has been longing for snow. Some winters pass without it here in central North Carolina.

He texted right back: She’s so wound up. We have already been out to play. We made snow cream. Put sprinkles on it and ate it for breakfast.

How awesome is that, I thought. She will remember it all of her life, this snow, getting to eat it for breakfast.

Magical moments. They will be stored away, deep in the hallowed halls of her mind.

I was just rereading The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. They explore moments we remember and revere the most. Some are tied to great emotion or to shared meaningful experiences. Others transcend “the normal course of events; they are literally extraordinary.”

The authors write: “The most precious moments are often the ones that cost the least.” They relate the story of a three-year-old who succumbed to a severe E. coli infection. They describe (brace yourself) her kidney failure, horrible pain, portions of her colon being removed twice, her heart failure and resuscitation; she desperately needed a kidney transplant and a compatible donor could not be found. At Halloween, her costume had to be laid on top of her because of all the tubes. She was still in the hospital as Christmas neared, and it began to snow:

For a child from Vermont, it was cruel, having to watch the snow through the windows. Wendy loved to make snowmen, to go sleigh riding. She hadn’t been outside for two months. Her lead nurse, Cori Fogarty, and and patient care associate Jessica Marsh hatched a plan. If Wendy couldn’t play in the snow, they would bring the snow to her. But it was more complicated than that. Because of Wendy’s heart condition, the staff was monitoring every milliliter of water that she consumed. So Jessica went and filled an emesis bucket with snow, weighed it, let it melt, and poured it into a graduated cylinder. Now they knew how to translate the weight of snow into its volume of water. So they went and filled the bucket with exactly the right amount of snow so that if Wendy ate it all — as three-year-olds are prone to do — she’d be just fine.

Can you see them, bringing the bowl of snow into the hospital room? Can you see that little girl’s expression when she saw it? Jessica Marsh said: “I have never seen such joy and pure innocence on a child’s face.” Wendy’s mother: “It was bliss, it was joy.” Many years later she would write: “It’s easy to forget the monotony of the endless days that stretched together during her recovery. But that one moment of brightness, that is one moment we will never forget.”*

Perhaps that is just the image we need right now, as COVID-19 drags on. A bowl of snow for a child…a bit of magic to escape the moment, maybe to carry us through.

As parents, as teachers, as writers, compassionate human beings, we have this power within us to imagine such moments, to make them happen. The most precious moments are the ones that cost the least…

Just so happens that as I write these words on this new, dark morning, flurries have started falling again.

Let us go and seek our bowl of snow. And where we might share it.

Maybe even for breakfast, with sprinkles.

*******

*Wendy’s story is from the chapter “Making Moments Matter” in The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017, 263-265). You might like to know that she did receive a transplant and went on to be an athlete.

Thanks to all at Two Writing Teachers for the power of your shared stories. Where there’s writing, there’s a way.

23 thoughts on “A bowl of snow

  1. Another beautiful slice, Fran…one that captures the importance of moments. I love the Heath Bros.’ writing and did not realize they had published this book. Having just lost my dear grandmother last week, I am uniquely present to the power of moments right now, how we must cherish them. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

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  2. As Lanny has said, another incredibly beautiful slice. As I reread, it seems three slices that you have woven and connected into one. The images are vivid and emotion strong. The ending – simple sweetness. Thanks for always sharing!

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  3. I really need a bowl of snow at this point. Remote learning/teaching has finally started taking its toll on me. Due to the beautiful snow (which I’m appreciating) we are teaching remotely today. After my class ends here at 11 I plan on going out and spending a little time amid the pristine snow. As you were describing snow to a winter-white blanket I began thinking of an episode of Little Bear that was my absolute favorite. It was about the winter solstice and even though I’m 32 1/2 I may have to watch that episode this evening. Thank you for this pick me up. I really needed to read this Slice.

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  4. Yes I was anxious about dear little Wendy until your kind afternote beneath your grand’s adorable SnowCreamWithSprinkles foto.

    A spirited winter story told with your panache, dear Fran. {Keep gloves & hat handy}

    so many Appreciations!
    with lace snowflakes on top.
    [& a recommendation for the creative non-fiction SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY for your grand’s shelf]
    xo
    ~~ Jan/Bookseedstudio

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  5. Your post brought to mind our grandchildren in Germany. In the last two weeks they had snowfall on some days. They loved every moment of it, at the end they even lay down on the snow. When they were here in 2019, it was the monsoon season and they wore raincoats and played in the rain and in the puddles in the garden. 🙂 All such moments are so precious.

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    • The children make their happiness everywhere! They do get so excited about snow. I am so glad your grandchildren got to enjoy that and even monsoon season. Thank you for your words, Lakshmi. Hope you and all yours are well.

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  6. So much warmth and compassion here, Fran. You know, as I was reading about the snow cream with sprinkles for breakfast, I have to admit I felt a pang of sadness. With my sons both in their late teens / early 20’s, I’m now missing out on those moments of joy and excitement about the snow. There’s no sledding, no snowmen in the front yard, no tearing out of the house to catch flakes on the tongue (unless you count me). And then….and then. I read that beautiful story about Wendy, about how the hospital staff worked so hard to bring her those moments of wonder, and I was once again heartened. There is so much beauty in this world, and I’m so very grateful that you shared BOTH pieces of it with us all.

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    • Ach, a pang at the kids growing up too, too fast. Never ever suppress that child you were, that still lives within, who runs out to catch the snowflakes on your tongue. Tears sting a little at that even as I smile at the glee! Very glad to know you liked all parts together … the fun as well as the challenge of writing like this is figuring out how to verbally connect these ideas that are so clearly connected in my mind. There IS so much beauty in the world – let us see and embrace it each day!

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  7. You have a way with words, Fran. That muted peace that come with fresh snow is second to none. I hope that your breakfast of snow and sprinkles is especially good, whenever you have the chance to partake of it! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing today!

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  8. I have spent time in snowy climes–Stuttgart, some trips to Tahoe to visit my grandparents–and miss it so. I was overjoyed when we received four inches of the stuff here in Central Texas last month, a rare occurrence. You and I have the same reverence for the peacefulness a good snowfall brings, that special kind of light, the shushing of harsh sounds. I’m glad your granddaughter now has that memory, too. When you get around to reading Wintering by Katherine May, you’ll see she has some interesting anecdotes on how cold affects the brain in positive ways. Side note on your post: the hospital story you shared from your reading proves once again that nurses are angels on earth. (And thanks for the postscript, to let us know that child’s outcome!)

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    • Chris – you inspired me to read Wintering and I am doing so now! I am up to the part about the dormice. Utterly enchanting. I love May’s style and the new thinking I am doing about the cold: we apply ice to a bruise or sprain; why not to life? Of course, snow also stirs the magic of Narnia for me as well; who cannot relate to Lucy standing in wonder, there in the woods by the lamppost, in the falling snow? Nurses ARE angels on Earth – I felt the story had to be told. Happy wintering, my friend. So glad you got that snow.

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