Fred always loved the snow. Not an inch of it went unrevelled, or unrolled in. The days when he woke up to snow were the greatest of joyful gifts. On Christmas morning, he was remarkably patient, or at least capable of quietly eating chocolate and feeling presents until we were ready to get up. But these were the days when the excitement would burst over. The logistics, and negotiations, would begin from the minute he opened his eyes. When he was little, it was how soon he could get out in it and where I had I stored the waterproof trousers. There was also Arthur to factor in, who loved the snow but hated the cold so he was on a time limit. So garden first, sledging later. The hill in our village is top sledging material, but there needs to be careful timing for maximum snow and maximum friends.
As he grew older, negotiations turned to how early he was allowed to call on friends, how long her could stay out and how much he could be trusted to be sensible. I liked to tag along at some point in the proceedings too, partly because I loved the snow but secretly in case I needed to the air ambulance. Eyes bright, cheeks red, jumping up and down with the cold, or the excitement. There was the year that his friends turned up with a tin bath that three or four of them could sit in. Treacherous enough but Fred decided what it really needed was a ramp half way down the hill. I can still hear the squeals as they took off, only to thump back down and keep careering down the hill, with much shrieking and ageing on my part, attempting to sledge down at the same time.
The added glory of these days was that he would return, triumphant, joyful and most importantly, exhausted. Part boy, part labrador, it took a Herculean effort to wear the child out. Running up a hill all day in the snow was just about enough. There is no more satisfying feeling as a parent than witnessing utterly worn out children.
And so now, what of the snow? We awake to see the ground covered and the flakes still falling. It’s crisp layer only seems to amplify the silence in the house, a soft blanket of sadness. Arthur is excited, of course, but in his own way that takes everything in his stride. He’d already quietly arranged to go out with his friends and it would be business as usual until that time came.
These are the days that hit us the hardest, not the big occasions and festivals that we brace ourselves for non in advance, screwing our eyes tight and holding our breath until they pass. No, these days, that were once an unexpected delight are now a blow to the back of the head.
There is a sacredness in the snow, just as there always has been. For just a while, everything is clean, and simple and quiet. It soothes me to know that we embraced every school closure, every cancelled plan, every excuse for hot chocolate. A day of snow is a day for things to come to a screaming halt and lean into the knowledge that these moments are fleeting and precious, that the world can wait awhile. The snow comes, but soon it will melt away, or turn to ice or mud or somewhere in between.
So for now I walk early in the morning, before the sledgers are out, but late enough to see the paw prints, when the sky shifts from a watery wisp to a celebratory tropical blue., when the sun is beautiful even though it doesn’t have the strength it will one day have again.
I build Fred the world’s smallest snowman by the cross that marks his grave, and try and rescue the frozen tulips. I breathe in the icy air, hoping that the shock of it will dull the pain in my chest, or at least give me another excuse for it.
Because the snow is here, and the world can wait.