Several days after the snow blanketed all slates possible in Central and North Texas, as if presaging a welcome clean start for 2021, I noticed that the front of Mrs R’s house was still featuring some white patches stubbornly profiting from the prolonged shadows hanging from the North side of the house. On that count, I decided to stop by and visit.
What was your first memory of snow? I asked.
Mrs R was born in 1947 and grew up in a farm near West, where she now lives. Since her first day of school, Mrs R would walk the quarter mile that separated the farm from the school bus stop. “We all did that then” she reminisced. “Kids now will not even walk next door, much less by themselves”.
But on one particular morning, upon seeing the fields covered in white, Mrs R’s father walked the distance with her daughter and together they waited for the bus. And waited and waited and waited. At one point, to protect Mrs R from the cold but also to kill time, dad lit up a fire with a bunch of dry cotton stems that he must have brought with him for that purpose. It was only much later that they learned that school had been cancelled and the bus would not come.
It was a true joy to hear Mrs R, her memories interrupted with contagious laughter, recount the details of that unexpected and silent walk with dad, of the long futile wait with a cotton fire, of the cancelling of school that day, and of the snow, Mrs R’s first.
There was something in that story, and how it was told, that reminded me of the now iconic opening sentence of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the emblematic novel of Nobel laurate Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
Perhaps the only slight sign of remorse that I sensed in Mrs R at the end of our chat was that the walk with her dad turned out to be a silent one. Because I too had a few early walks with my dad that also turned out to be regrettably silent, I can almost picture Mrs R and her father that morning, both wanting to say something to the other, to ask something, anything to break the ice. But for some reason it just wouldn’t happen.
As usual under these circumstances, I ran to The Google for advice. Quickly, it responded that to break the ice with dad “pretend he is a good friend of yours, not your father”. Embarrassingly simple if we dare to try.