There is snow on the ground in Vancouver. Beneath some of the snow is a sheet of ice waiting to send me flying. Doctor's orders are to walk (but not to skate and fall). What a dilemma. On the positive side, snow can inspire a story. I've written plenty of snow stories in the past, but you might be thinking of one right now. You might be chewing on your pencil, or your computer keyboard, and thinking, "Hmm, a story with snow. How do I get the feeling I have about snow across to my readers? What kind of story shall I write?"
No publisher has ever shown much interest in my snow covered tales ... well, no, wait a minute, that's not entirely true. One of my best Hanukkah stories came back to me with such a heartwarming rejection letter, that I almost felt sorry for the publisher. 'We love your story .... it deserves to be published ... but ...' I wanted to put my arm around the editor's shoulders and say, 'There, there, don't feel bad. I know someone's going to publish it one day.' And who knows, maybe they will. Never let rejection stop you from writing stories.
When I was a child I loved snow. I mean I loved it up close and personal, as opposed to high up on the mountains, which is where I prefer it to be nowadays. I love the way it looks - in the distance, framed by the branches of frost-covered evergreens. A bit like a postcard.
Back in the old days (the nineteen fifties, if you must know) I would go outside in my wellington boots, inside of which I wore a pair of my own socks covered by a pair of my dad's socks. My wool mittens were woefully inadequate, though my pom-pon hat served its purpose. As I built my snowman with soot covered snow (I lived in an industrial city in the North of England. It was decades before I realized that snow was white) the snow would fall down my wellies and soak my socks. By the time my snow person was finished my feet were frozen.
"Don't put your feet too near the fire," my mother would instruct, "or you'll get chillblains." I always disobeyed. I always got chillblains. I'm not very good at science (although I think I might ask my good friend Shar Levine about the chillblain effect. She's the sciencelady.com)
Here's what happens. You take red, cold wet feet, put them close to the flames of the coal fire that's burning in the grate, wiggle your toes until hot and, 'voila!' they end up covered with red, itchy, lumpy things. The more you scratch them the worse they get, and Mother will always say, "What did I tell you? But will you listen to me? Oh, no. What do I know? I'm only your mother."
What else do I remember of childhood snow days?
Houses did not have central heating or double glazed windows. On very cold days, and nights, frost covered the window panes inside and out, and I could use my nail to trace patterns, or create little pictures, in the frost. Sometimes nature created those patterns without my help. They looked like giant, glittering snowflakes on the glass.
The robins in England (called robin redbreasts) are much smaller and redder than North American robins. My mother would throw out food for them and they would gather in the snow and bob for crumbs. Red and brown birds pecking about in the twinkling snow (and soot) - against a backdrop of trees on which the leaves had been replaced by icicles. The setting for a fairy tale waiting to be told.
Something else I've noticed. A blanket of snow seems to transform all sounds into a whisper.
So, kids, those are some of my wintertime memories and observations. What are yours? Stop chewing your pencils and write something!