A perfect first snowfall day to play

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They don't come much better timed or more beautiful than Saturday's first snowfall.

By Steve Doyle

Wasn’t that a lovely gift for Mother Nature to deliver our first real snowfall on a Saturday during a holiday break? No work for many, no school for any and no planned hootenanny.

The snow wasn’t too deep, the temp wasn’t too cold and the landscape The Artist painted was one of great elegance, Christmas card-quality and pure whiteness. We can even forgive its arriving four days too late to give Santa safe landings.

Ultimate beauty, moderate temperatures and mild disruption equal the perfect snowfall.

So often beautiful snows bring treacherous roads, biting winds and disrupted schedules (as in, school is out, so what will we do with the kids?).  We tolerate those a time or two before snow becomes a pain and bore. No problems on Saturday.

This was a time to put on new boots and a heavy coat and just go for a walk under the snow-tipped trees, along a white-banked brook and through pastures untainted by footprint or litter.

This was a time to photograph the beauty, to taunt your relatives down south who were dripping in new holiday sweaters they felt incumbent to wear.

This was an understanding of what Ansel Adams saw in his viewfinder, images in Norman Rockwell’s head, the splendor Currier & Ives conveyed in oil on canvas.

This created an elaborate gift-wrapping for the arrival of a new year, a gift to be opened and enjoyed 365 times but whose packaging has an awesome if temporary allure.

You can bet that a few days into 2013, we will see mud and slush and melt and complain about how ugly everything is, and we’re not even talking about Congress or the University of Kentucky’s free-throw shooting.

Now, I realize the former has you in a froth and the latter in a lather, but neither could have vandalized our Saturday. We can’t allow such awesomeness to be obscured by politics or even basketball.

So on Saturday afternoon, when many folks in Washington were haggling and many in Louisville were nagging, I stepped away from the world and did something I do far less often than the snow falls: I acted like a kid.

For a few hours, I bundled myself tightly and took my young and excited children into the great white north (of Shelby County) to embrace the wonders of snow play.

My son, a native of Minnesota, certainly could have postured boredom at the 2 or 3 inches that covered our grounds. But he didn’t. He only worried about having gloves that allowed him to play.

My daughter, building memories from one winter to the next, only wanted to do everything.

Her: “Dad, can we go sledding?”

Me: “The ground is pretty wet and muddy beneath the snow. And the snow is pretty wet. I think if you got on a sled, it would just sink and not slide.”

Her: “So can we make snow angels?”

Me: “You can try, but if you lie down, you’re only going to get wet because the snow and ground are wet.”
Her: “Can we throw snowballs?”

I had not stepped a yard outside the garage when the first white sphere came my way, followed by a giggle and a loud shriek as a snowball headed back in that direction.

I had not played with children in the snow for any significant time in decades, not since my grown and married daughter and son and I came to Kentucky for a holiday visit and bumped into the arrival of some white stuff.

And since our family moved to Kentucky 4-plus years ago, every time there has been measurable snowfall, I’ve had to be consumed with work – with simply getting to the office and reporting on slick roads, closed schools or whatever accidents and outages occurred. During the incapacitating ice storm of 2009 – great sledding weather – there was no time for play.

But this time I was out there acting like a 10-year-old for a few hours, which sent me back to the days when the snow seemed deeper and more alluring and conjured my two favorite snow-day memories from my pre-adolescent days.

One was when a bunch of us gathered one evening in Simpsonville, and someone built a bonfire on the open lot near the intersection of 2nd and Main Streets. We took turns sliding on an old car hood down an ice-slickened hill behind Claude Moss’s garage and almost out onto U.S. 60.

That would never happen today, would it? That’s why it’s a great memory.

My other favorite moment is far less controversial and a little more personal: arriving home one day from early release from school because of a big, wet snowfall and finding in my grandparents’ front yard a sizeable snowman, all fully decorated, right down the grain shovel in his “hand” – a little gift courtesy of my parents. It was a surprise that always makes me smile.

So this past Saturday, after taking a morning walk to scrape sidewalks and outline my driveway, I stopped in our front yard and tamped together a little snow guy to wave at my kids when they looked out of the window.

Later that afternoon, after the snowballs had flown, I showed a boy from Minnesota and a girl from China how to roll big balls and make a snowman of their very own, one of stature and substance and embraceable character.

They caught on quickly, and with a little help and the use of twigs, nuts and an old plastic fire hat from a school field trip, they had a snowman of which they could be proud.

I quickly snapped a photo of our  “snow firefighter” and texted it to my daughter in Central Florida, who was appropriately impressed but expressed a pragmatism that usually is reserved for the second snow of the season:

“Wouldn’t being a firefighter be a hazardous line of work for a snowman?”