I’d hardly call the weather outside frightful. Yes, the fire is delightful and who says we have no place to go? So let it, you know … snow. That’s not exactly what Sammy Cahn had in mind when he wrote most of that in 1945, but you get the idea. Do they ever let it snow around here? Only if you use the loosest definition of snow. There are a few flurries now and then, as long as “now” and “then” are separated by 10 or 15 years. We make do with our pretend winter but there are some great events that have become holiday traditions in Newport-Mesa land.
Thursday was Weichman Realtors’ annual Polar Express train ride and fun stuff day, with Mr. Claus and company at the Goat Hill Junction miniature railroad. And, next Saturday, is Torelli Realty’s annual Holiday Snow Land, with 40 tons of man-made snow at Balearic Park, which is about 40 steps from my house. Over the years I have made my way to Valerie’s snow fest in the park to see one thing, and one thing only: little kids who have never — or seldom seen — snow trying to figure out what to do with it. You can’t beat that.
But it occurred to me that it might be useful for small, California-grown people to know how snow really works in the places where the white stuff falls from the sky, not from a truck. When you are a kid in a place where “cold” does not mean 40 degrees, you pray for snow and you pray hard, because if it snows enough, school will be closed. And that is the most wonderful thing — ever — that can happen in the life of a child. Here’s how it works in the land of the b-rrrrr.
A major storm usually starts late in the day and continues through the night, which means it is impossible to sleep if you are between the ages of six and 16. Visions of sugarplums my patoot: You’re dreaming of two to three feet of the white stuff, not sugarplums. Nobody knows what a sugarplum is anyway.
When you wake up, you race to the window. If it’s a two-inch fizzle, you go back to sleep, heart-broken. But if it’s the two-foot mother lode that is the stuff from which dreams are made, you scramble across the bed and turn on the radio for the words that you live for: “Public schools in all five boroughs will be closed today, along with the following parochial schools…"
Your heart begins to pound so hard that you can hear it. When they finally announce, "…and in the Bronx, in Woodlawn-Wakefield, P.S. 103 and St. Francis of Rome will be closed,” you can hear muffled shouts and cheers up and down the block.
Within minutes, the streets are a mass of coats, hoods, gloves and galoshes with kids somewhere inside them. There is a brief strategy meeting — sledding, snowball fight or snow fort — which is a total waste of time because the answer is always sledding. The sledding was the high point of every snow day and it went on for hours. There were a lot of rules and a complex pecking order about who could go down the hill when and with whom. But in reality the snow rules were not that different from the summer rules: everyone steers clear of the tough kids, the cool kids get all the attention and everyone picks on the dweebs. So it was and so shall it ever be, temperature notwithstanding.
There are a few snow myths that need to be dispelled. Nobody builds snowmen except little kids, usually with their parents. Then and now, fully grown people only build snowmen because they think they remember building them, even though they never really did. Snowmen take way too much time to build and they never look right. Ever. You can try to roll up snow just as long as you want but it always ends up looking like a giant wad of cotton gauze. You can never get it round no matter how hard you try. And who was the last kid who ran into the house and came out with a carrot, some lumps of coal and a top hat? I’m sorry, is this 1840?
Leave the big snowball fights with the neat piles of snowballs stacked up like so many cannon balls to the movies. Never happens. Here’s the deal. You make two or three well-made snowballs (it’s an art), then lie in wait for an unsuspecting person to come by, preferably a dweeb or a girl (if you’re a boy). On rare occasions, it could be a tough kid, but you better be really fast, and I was never fast. I stuck to the dweebs and the girls. The rule is you don’t want to hurt anybody but you do want to cause great discomfort and, above all, embarrassment. The object is to knock the target’s hat off, with extra points for making them drop what ever they’re carrying and double-extra points for getting their hair wet. If you can do all three and have it properly witnessed, you will be treated like royalty for weeks.
I think that’s it — the rules of snow. Take the small people to the virtual snow hill of your choice, have a blast, and when they ask you, “Is that snow?” tell them, “Yeah. Sort of.”
I gotta go.
PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at email@example.com.