We may be back to our usual winter lower mainland weather, aka weeping skies, but for a few days last week we lived in a snow kingdom. Snow transforms things, even for jaded adults. I can remember a business trip to Toronto a few years ago, and while I no longer recall the exact business that brought me there, an afternoon walk along Queen Street is still in sharp focus. It was snowing, and the stores seemed magically lit from within, like glowing jewels strung along the street. They were typical stores of course, but the snow transformed them into something extraordinary, just for that afternoon.
Last week’s snow had the same effect on recess, and because we were already in the world of children, there was some double magic at work. First of all, let’s face it, snow is tactile stuff. It begs to be touched and shaped, and there was plenty of that going on at Tomsett Elementary School last week.
Danielle called me over as soon as I got outside, proudly shaping her small snow creation with her oversize pink gloves. The truth was this small hill she was making (not even close to a snowman) was a big accomplishment, as it was so cold the snow wasn’t really letting itself be shaped into anything.
At least that’s what I thought until I met James and The Giant Snowball. Given the low temperature and dry, pack-resistant snow, this thing defied all laws of nature. According to James, his creation was assembled over several days and stored secretly outdoors between bouts of building it up. And it’s true, snow shapes beg to be saved over time. Many of these efforts fail, as the initial plan involves bringing the snowball back inside after recess, but James had avoided that pitfall. The results defied nature, and were pretty close to magical.
While I was admiring various other amazing feats of attempted snow packing, I saw Tomsett Principal Donna Matheson across the playground. She was carrying a basket and was surrounded by a gaggle of excited children.
Whatever she was giving out, it was a hot commodity. She had an empty basket in no time. When our paths crossed towards the end of recess, I asked her what had been in the basket.
Given how excited the children were, I was speculating – Tim Bits (not too healthy), or stickers (not good in snow), but what she told me was more ordinary, and of course, extraordinary too. After all, we’re dealing with snow here.
“They just never have any mittens, and they can’t play in the snow without them. They’d miss out on all the fun, so I buy a bunch of gloves at the dollar store and give them out so they can play.”
That’s the second magical effect of snow. It brings out the kindness and generosity in people like Donna and, like the stores on Queen Street, lights it up for the day.