Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Snow Call

I feel very grateful that I grew up in Minnesota.  It’s my homeland.

There was a time – 11.5 years to be precise –, however, where I was wandering in a wilderness far, far from my homeland.  I went ahead and got married to someone attending grad school in Austin, TX.  I moved there sight unseen. It’s a long story. I also happened to move there in the middle of June during a record breaking hot summer.  I literally thought I was going to melt.  I remember the outgoing message on our answering machine mentioned that I wasn’t answering the phone because I had most likely turned into a human puddle on the black top of our apartment’s parking lot.
I’m not going to lie. I was pretty cranky.  I remember rewarding myself with a Jamba Juice smoothie if I had to go out into the heat to do errands and, by golly, that Carribean Passion smoothie was one of the only things that could snap me out of my heat induced bitchiness.  Good thing for my marriage that we were still very much in our honeymoon phase and my husband seemed to overlook my weather induced mood swings.

That year my version of summer ended early in August when I began new teacher orientation for the school district where I had gotten my first position teaching third grade. I had always associated the beginning of the school year with the dawning of sweatshirt, football-game-going weather.  Summer weather in Texas didn’t end until mid October. This was not a pleasant surprise to me.  “Happy fall, y’all,” they’d say.  Sheesh.

Having grown up in Minnesota, where, like any decent and acceptable geographic location, there are four distinct seasons, it was quite odd to be void of the climatey trappings of the seasons changing.  Oh, I was sooo indignant.  I would look at the fall décor on sale at Garden Ridge and scream..  “YOU wish it was fall!  Don’t even put up that fall colored leaf wreath on your front door, you big season stealer.  Posers!”

Then, when Christmas time rolled around it was even more awkward to see snowflakes and elves and anything that needs a polar vortex to not seem completely out of place.  Putting a snowman decoration in your yard in Texas is like seeing Kim Kardashian at a library.  It’s unnatural.

I tried to just flat out will cooler weather to come.  I put on my Hanna Andersson Christmas plaid jumper (yes, it is was ugly as it sounds) and my nylons (what?) crowned with my brown, leather mary jane flats and successfully made no impact on the weather whatsoever.  I did happen to accomplish sweating my sweet MN ass off, however. 

Meanwhile, some of my friends from Minnesota would have to be on the receiving end of some of my complaints about the lack of cool weather.  I’m not sure exactly how it started, but somehow, as a form of self torture, I demanded of my friend, Kristi, that she call me on the first day that it snowed in MN. I guess it was a way for me to maintain some semblance of my seasonal circadian rhythms. Cut to us 17 years later.  I am back in Minnesota and have been for almost 6 years, but the tradition still continues.
Here is the message she left on my voicemail this year a couple of weeks ago:

There have been some years, when I was missing home or having a bad day, when I would see her name pop up on my caller id sometime mid –Novemberish and start crying before I even picked up the phone.

You should know that Kristi and I aren’t the kind of friends that talk to each other all the time, but this tradition of the snow call, gives our relationship an air of sophistication or legitimacy, like an old leather bound book.  When we did get a chance to talk or connect there was this familiarity and depth that we had because I’ve known her since I was 13.  Our relationship has a firm foundation of youthful shenanigans, family connection, verbal sparring and scab juice(inside joke).  I knew she was a keeper when I saw her for the first time in her super fly, fried onion scented leather jacket, which got it’s unique odor from her job at Burger King.  She had a leather jacket and a job? I was in. One of my first interactions with her was at a home school co-op. (Yes, we were home schooled at the same time for a brief period in the late 80’s) Number one, she had made up a song with the lyric, “Home school co-op, makes me throw up.” Funny, right?  Number two, she had landed the part of “Pig #3” in a skit of the Prodigal Son.  Forever etched into my memory is the image of her in the leather jacket, waving goodbye to the son with one hand and giving herself a pig nose with the other.

This year when she called, I was flooded with memories of her and our friendship and absolutely fell in love with the idea that we had created this very tangible and very consistent ritual.  We also managed to tie it to a seasonal change that reminds me of the cyclical nature of our lives.  Good job, us.
Death, taxes and the first snow in MN – the ties that bind.

I love the seasons.  I love traditions. I love my friends.  I’m going to make sure I take time to savor, repeat and begin all of these things- this season and always.
Special thanks to Kristi and that white cold stuff that sometimes messes up our ability to safely travel, but somehow brings us together.

Kristi & I circa 1993

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