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.