Memories of snow

By season's end, my mother was always sick of the slush and my father missed commuter trains.

snow 88 (photo credit: )
snow 88
(photo credit: )
All winter long I've been hoping for snow, as I have every year since 1976, when I made aliya from Connecticut. Snowy Connecticut, where winter's bounty was unstinting… I'd shiver in Israel's annual bone-chilling rains, yearning for the unearthly sight, preserved forever in my mind's eye, of the black lace of tree branches against an opaque and luminous sky - the sky a vast, softly overturned cup overhead - and every tiny black twig rendered suddenly articulate and exquisite. Oh, for the muffled non-noise of a peaceful world gone mute, and staying home from school… the piles of coldness heaping up outside our backdoor. No algebra test today, hurrah! But this inner vision of loveliness has been mirrored only rarely out in the real world, here in the political heat of the Middle East. Four years, five, six…one winter can follow another without that buried childhood dream ever coming alive. So this morning I perch in my warm and cozy nest, as a world transformed - a world turned upside down, where ground could just as well be sky, and sky the white ground - blows in madly chaotic joy out the kitchen window. Jillions of snowflakes drifting and cruising, rushing on a gust of furious wind, rising, racing, tumbling and somersaulting, shooting sideways and on a running upwards slant, up and down and all around, circling and wheeling, fast as hail or lifted luxuriously on an unseen breeze, in all directions, without direction, the freezing air spinning in a crazy freedom, in a world cut loose from gravity's weight. Egypt is gone, and bloodshed's gone, gone are Iran, and Gaza, and Syria - all out of sight. Out of mind, for one night and one day. IN AMERICA, it would start with sledding and skating, walking in a winter wonderland, but the magic always fell prey eventually to overkill, slaughtered by inconvenience. By season's end, my mother was always sick of the slush and the shoveling, of the stalled cars and my father's missed commuter trains, of the impediment to shopping. For the children, glee was ours, for the two or three cherished snow days, but even we, finally, looked forward to spring. Here, on a day like this, we have the best of all possible worlds. We have the yearning for snow, the idea in its untarnished purity, and also, on occasion, the thing itself - both the unadulterated essence, never diluted by overexposure, seldom sullied by the clumsy interference of reality's hand, as well as the physical phenomenon. In our mind's eye, we can have snow in the Promised Land whenever we wish, without the associated troubles. Here the ideal is real - it has to be real - because the ideal is so seldom actualized. Snow - like Connecticut's blazing autumn leaves, a riot of orange and violet and yellow and crimson, or muggy summer days, with their July and August downpours - all these remain as intense as they were in childhood, because for the most part they occur in memory alone. Even as I pause from this typing and glance through the windows, what I already see is a curtain of driving rain. Allah u Akbar, "God is great," is traditionally exclaimed by an Islamic suicide bomber at the moment of his attack, to seal his martyrdom and acquire for himself sure entry into heaven. The exclamation celebrates the Arab's successful perpetration of what he considers to be his holy mission: the killing of an infidel - in our case, the Jew who by virtue of living here, by virtue of being alive, evokes in Esau's heart a deep and ancient chord of deadly insecurity. Somewhere in the Middle East, there may be a young man, hardly out of childhood himself, really, whose plans for the day have been thwarted, as for the rest of us. For purposes such as these, it's the young and fervent idealists whom Hamas and Hizbullah recruit, those who despair of their predicament and hunger for excitement and glory, like young men elsewhere. Can he resist throwing a snowball? He, too, last night and this morning, may have gazed out spellbound at the strange and overwhelmingly new world. He had thought to see heaven today, and there it was. God is great, it's true, the Creator of all of us: He Who designs snowflakes, and humans who are enchanted by them, and Whose kindness endures forever. He will redeem Israel from her iniquities, as it is written in the Torah, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; if your sins be like scarlet, they can become as white as snow." The writer's most recent books include A Gift Passed Along, Wish I Were Here, (Artscroll) and The Mother in Our Lives Targum/Feldheim.