I didn’t see snow until I was seven years old. My family lived in LA until I was almost nine, and it was a rare day when the temperature dropped below 45 degrees. One day in March of 1986, my parents decided it was time for their kids to experience snow and so we piled into the family Subaru and took a day trip up to Big Bear.
It was only about 40 minutes from our house in Eagle Rock, but felt like another world. My memories of that day are deeply linked to the pictures my parents took of us playing, although some moments stand out, independent from photographic evidence. I remember building a snowman, and being shocked at how something so cold could also burn. My parents had to prompt us, to teach us how play in the snow, because it was so foreign. My mom laid down in a field to show us how to make an angel, and my dad instructed us on how to make a snowball stay together and fly.
There was a little boy who attached himself to us soon after we arrived, and played more enthusiastically than I knew how. I felt a little jealous that he was more interested in my four year old sister than me, when he was closer to my age, but he could sense that she shared his fearlessness and would be a better playmate.
In some senses, my parents were as excited to see snow as we were, because it had been many years since they had lived in a climate where winters froze. After eight years in LA, they had forgotten how cold and pervasive snow could be, and didn’t bring enough changes of clothing to keep us from getting chilled on the way home.
We moved to Portland about a year later, and almost immediately had snowy winters. The first house we moved to after LA was two blocks from my elementary school, and I finally got to walk to school in the snow, just like my mom and Laura Ingalls Wilder had done. That one action deeply satisfied my need for things to be like they were in the olden days.
I’ve experienced many more snow days since that first one on Big Bear almost twenty years ago, but I will always remember that one as my first.