September 26, 2023 | Rome, Italy

The wondrous quiet

By |2018-03-21T18:58:27+01:00December 20th, 2013|"American Girl"|
The blizzard of December 2010 brought New York to a near standstill.

was in my Midtown Manhattan office when the forecast came in: snow, and lots of it. “Snow,” I thought wistfully. The prediction called for up to eight inches.

My office mates didn’t share my enthusiasm.

“Snow. Oh crap. Just what we don’t need!” I overheard. “I have shopping to do.”

Joe, the mail guy, rolled by my desk with his wire trolley: “I hate snow! What a mess that stuff is to shovel. And driving in it is the worst!”

It would have been easy to agree and keep my enthusiasm to myself. But something struck me.

Snow seemed to me among life’s simplest pleasures. It cost nothing and made the world white and quiet, peaceful even. The silence of a snowy landscape reminded me of a cathedral, but softer and more precious.

What I heard from my colleagues seemed a complete absence of wonder.

Had complaint replaced our simplest joys? Had they forgotten the first time they saw it in disbelief or felt it melt on their warm skin?

“What’s wrong with you guys?” I said incredulously. “It’s December. And snow coming down in big flakes is amazing. It’s like confetti falling straight from the sky.”

Joe looked back at me with sideways eyes, suspecting I was touched.

“Come over to my house and shovel it then,” he said. “You’re more than welcome to it.”

He couldn’t have known I’d jump at the chance. “I’d love to,” I said. “I have great memories of getting bundled up to shovel our driveway as a kid. My dad would gather up my brothers and I would tag along to help. I can still hear the big red scoop scraping the pavement and the strange weight of the snow. When my brothers tossed it over their shoulders, it flew into big piles perfect for playing King of the Mountain.”

Memories came rushing back.

“As for driving, we’d actually look forward to it. We’d head over to the Kroger supermarket parking lot, which was all lit up and empty. We’d step on the gas, spin the wheel and make great figure 8’s in the fresh snow. Man that was fun!”

“You sound like something out of the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,'” Joe said.

“Come on Joe, don’t tell me you didn’t have some great snow ball fights as a kid. I bet you even made an igloo or two.”

He was quiet as he reached way back into his distant memories, then his face lit up with a smile.

“Yea, Okay. I remember plunking the neighbor boy, Roy. I hated that kid and I really got him one day by hiding behind a car. He didn’t know what hit him! That was a great day.” Joe began laughing, stuck in his reverie before snapping back to the present.

“Ah yes. Well, snow just ain’t what it used to be. Just like everything else, things change.”

Joe rolled down the hall and I smiled as he left. Maybe when he got out his shovel, he’d lighten up. Maybe he’d even make a snowball and test his throwing arm again.

As for me, I’ll have my face at the window watching the world go white. Then I’ll put on my boots and escape into the wondrous quiet.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.