Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Grandma, and Snow, and Lent

I was born in a record snowfall for Oklahoma. My parents weren't sure they'd make it to the hospital, but the ambulance had four-wheel drive and the helmsman steered us through. Thus was I born officially an Okie from Muskogee. And then I was taken back through the snow to our little house on the hill in Adair County. Sometimes my father and I run into that ambulance driver, and he remembers that I was the little baby who was born in the blizzard.

My grandmother wanted to name me after the snow, but nobody would let her. Even when I couldn't speak, she knew my heart and what I would like best. She always did, all her life, sometimes I think, even before I was thought about. We were alike in many ways. I loved many things about her but also her snow-colored hair and her skin the color of cream. Everything she had was white: Her Bible, her galoshes, the hammer she used to crack open walnuts, her gloves, which had rabbit fur inside them. She often wore pearls. She had the most gracious smile, and when I think of her, I see she would lean it in on the person with whom she was speaking, as if that person was always on the verge of delighting her. Yet these things aren't even the surface of how I loved her.

But for the moment, I think of her because she wanted to name me after snow, my favorite weather, so I only tell you that part, and that she was the color of snow in every way.

She knew that snow is not even a weather; it is a state of being, one that was rare for me until I came here, and now it comes every few days and never quite melts all the way. I was thinking this morning as I walked the dogs through the slush that I am ungrateful for how constant it is. In Oklahoma or Italy or especially Mississippi, I would dream of snow that lasted longer than a week. That's all I asked for. Now I have snow that lasts for months, but I complain that it's not deep enough, that it melts in between, that it's not constant enough. I ask for too much.

My grandmother once built a snow-woman. It was her same height and had her hourglass figure. She ignored dishes, housework, all kinds of things, in order to stand out there and build her. Then she cut a line up the side of an old dress so she could put it on her. There is a picture of the two of them in the yard that sunny, cold day. People stopped by the house to comment on the snow-woman. Grandma talked about her every time it snowed after that, but she never built another one. That one memory was plenty, I guess. I hope so.

I don't know why I keep thinking about her. This entry was supposed to be about the fact that we FINALLY may have snow again -- big snow, but not lake-effect snow. I wished for it so hard on my birthday, and we got some last night and today. I hope we have so much more tonight, so much we can't get out of our houses, so much I must build a fire, so much my small dogs disappear when they jump off the porch. And so it is about that, what I want more of, I guess -- snow, and my grandma, who was its same color and who I loved more than winter, and who has been in Heaven now for many years.

In my rambly way, I come to how this all relates to Lent, I guess: That Lent is wanting desperately what it seems like you can't have -- a miracle, or a person or time that is gone, or for things to change or stay the same when ultimately, nothing ever does either one. The desire is Lent, but Easter is the hope of Heaven, when all those people will come wading across the river carrying daffodils and calling your name and saying, "Come with us! It's snowing over here!" At least, that's what they'll say to me. Lent is remembering that Easter will come, and Life is remembering that Death will, and Winter is remembering that Spring will. The first Easter was better than anyone could have imagined, like spring always is, like I'm sure death will be (as Walt Whitman said, and he's generally right).

And so I shouldn't hurry Lent or try to hold onto winter or waste my precious life. Everything comes in its time, and I'll always have plenty.

Still, I'm no saint, and I hope it snows so much I can't see out the windows in the morning, and that my life is long, and that people have to hunt Easter eggs in the snow this year.

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