It is snowing. As of 6:30 a.m. or so, here near Princeton, New Jersey, a gentle snow is falling. The temperature was minus eight degrees Celsius when I walked back to my home from the gym. The flakes were small and they did not seem to hurry on their way down from the thick layer of cloud above.
After showering and preparing my usual Turkish coffee, I drove my car to a local garage for some scheduled maintenance. My car radio was off. The sound of the snow hitting the undercarriage and wheel wells of my vehicle was soothing. as was the crunch of the tires on the snow.
Snow is predicted for Jerusalem, and I have seen some beautiful photos of past snowfalls there. During some of those past snowfalls, my grandchildren experienced that wonderfully unique joy of playing in snow somewhere near Jerusalem. I hope that they will have wonderful memories of that time. Snow has that power, to evoke strong memories.
For a time, when I lived in Toronto, Canada, snow meant a way to earn a small amount of money. I would walk around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, offering to shovel driveways and walkways. Sometimes my younger brother would come along and sometimes I was on my own. There was time for sledding and tobogganing, and skating in outdoor skating rinks. My brother was a great skater and hockey player, while I was not. I stayed outdoors until my fingers and toes were numb, making it all the more pleasurable to warm up once we decided to go back home.
I did not expect to ever see snow again when I returned to live in Israel. I was wrong. While in Syria with my Golani Brigade brothers of the 13th Battalion, we were completely snowed in during January 1974. I recall a particular night, when the snow fell so hard that I was ordered back to the Forward Operating Base from my remote outpost. I gathered up all of the equipment, leaving nothing behind. I carried my personal weapon, the radio unit was on my back, the Belgian FN MAG machine gun was slung across my shoulders, my hands carried the ammunition boxes. My pockets and pouches were stuffed with maps and grenades and extra ammunition clips. I trudged through the deep snow, surrounded by white silence. When I arrived at the base, and after I began to unload everything I had carried back, I realized that an ammunition clip had fallen from my pocket. With a beta light torch in hand, I began to backtrack, following my own footprints in the snow. There it was, almost completely covered in snow, but still visible, its black tip shining against the white snow. I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Since living in the US, snow has been a regular part of my winters in New Jersey. Some years there is more snow, and some years there is less.
A few years ago there was so much snow that the piles were more than two meters in height. The snow brought some beautiful trees down, and a heavy tree branch came quite close to crushing the roof of my car. And yet, once inside, once my fingers and toes thawed and the pain of that thawing passed from reality to memory, the view from the large window of our living room was really quite beautiful.
Some snowfalls created “state of emergency” situations, with the Governor of New Jersey demanding that everyone stay home and off the roads and highways. Other snowfalls managed to create long snake-like lines of vehicles, all hoping to arrive home safely, none daring to go faster than the lead vehicle crawling along at a snail’s pace.
Snow is a blanket of tranquility that descends upon us, allowing us the joy of relishing a cup of hot soup that would not be as tasty and warming under any other circumstances. Snow gives us the greatest pleasure when we allow ourselves that extra ten minutes of “snooze” after the morning alarm has gone off.
A final memory of snow takes me back to December 2001, and to Vienna, Austria. My father turned 80 then. My children from my first marriage came to Vienna from Israel, my step-son, my wife and I came to Vienna from the US and together with my sister, my step-mom and my father we celebrated. Vienna was beautiful in white. We all sat together in Café Gloriette, looking down on Schlosspark Schönbrunn under its blanket of snow, and we celebrated!