Small Wonders: Snow falls and a wish comes true

Well, well, well. Wishes do come true.

In October 2009, I wrote in this column that I wanted it to snow on Southern California. I wanted to see our cities blanketed in a layer of white in hopes such an act of force majeure would bring society to a standstill. It took 16 months, but it happened.

And this time I didn't have to drive 90 minutes to shovel the stuff into the bed of my truck, haul it home and dump it on the lawn so the kids could experience a snow day.

When it started last Saturday, I was in line at the Handy Market paying for my tri-trip sandwiches and ribeyes. A shout came from the group of Girl Scouts encamped outside — seriously, can you go anywhere right now without being overrun by precious young ladies selling cookies?

I thought someone had just bought the millionth box of Thin Mints and won a trip to Graceland. But it was something far better.


Or something like snow.

Let's be honest. To call it "snow" is to call a Taco Bell Chalupa authentic Mexican cuisine. Sure, it fell from the sky in flake-like droplets — something more substantial than rain, not quite as firm as hail. "Graupel," I heard one climatologist call it.

But since the idea of building a "graupelman" or engaging in a "graupelball" fight sounds more frightening than wondrous, let's just agree to call it snow. With a little effort, one could scrape enough off the hood of his car and stuff it down his wife's collar — thus making a very cold day just that much colder.

I got home and saw my umbrella open and strewn carelessly on the front lawn during the meteorological melee, the hail maelstrom. Snowpalooza. What is it about a father's possessions that make them so irresistible for kids to play with? I've bought them their own umbrellas, flashlights and retractable tape measures, but it's always mine they want to play with. And always mine that end up broken.

Thing 1, Thing 2 and all the other Things on our street danced and made merry like the snow angels they are, eyes wide at the miracle happening before them. They even pulled out a toboggan in innocent, hopeful preparation for the blizzard they knew must inevitably be coming.

There are no shades of gray to a child; their image of a snow day is something a bit more magical than the reality. Yet, magical still in ways we grownups can't recall.

All about town, miniature snowmen replaced jockeys and gnomes on people's lawns. Rooftops and yards were sheeted in white; the comical incongruence of palm trees dusted with snow was a sight to behold. It was like being inside a snowglobe in a Hollywood gift shop.

We still have some in the freezer, a small bolus of ice that was a snowball — a child's version of capturing lightning in a bottle, a youthful knowing of the specialness of a moment and wanting to hold onto it forever.

I get that. It's the same reason I hold on to a piece of driftwood picked up off the beach in Cambria or a rock from the floor of a desert canyon in Joshua Tree so long ago.

We can't help it. When those too-rare moments come, we know they won't last forever. They probably won't last an hour. So we have to do something to keep it alive in our hearts for as long as possible.

And just when you thought the miracle had ended, it hadn't. Throughout the day, more flurries flew. Eventually, the kids grew weary, barely looking away from "Wizards of Waverly Place" every time dad ran outside, scooped up a fresh handful and threw it at the living room window in delight.

A wish came true when it "snowed" last weekend. Time stopped. And everyone with a shred of wonder left in them ran outside into the miraculous scene, beaming and playing like the little pixies we still have within us. Neighbors, co-workers and strangers all sharing in something ubiquitous, unexpected, simple and beautiful. A collective, joyful memory to help us get through the inane Hathaway/Franco hosted Oscar show.

I got what I wished for, just a little later than I'd wanted. I'll have to be more specific about the timing of my wishes. Maybe that's why I don't have a bestselling book, Tom Selleck's mustache or a jetpack yet.

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the upcoming book "Crooked Little Birdhouse." Check it out at He may be reached on Facebook and at

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