Tag Archives: family

let’s build a snowman: five things today’s snowfall taught me.

“Emily: We can’t just throw him out in the snow.
Walter: Why not? He loves the snow. He’s told me 15 times.”
–from the film, Elf

1. Never say never. “Does it snow where you’re from?” many British colleagues and friends asked me before I left London for home. I assured them I’m from Virginia Beach and besides the freak occurrence of last winter’s Snowpocalypse, we never get snow. Maybe a few flurries that get the weathermen all in a tizzy, but nothing note-worthy. Even yesterday, my grandmother worried our breakfast plans for Monday would be put off because of forecasted snow. “Let the snow fall first,” I assured her, “And then we’ll deal with it.” Well, darn if she wasn’t right. We woke up today to yet another epic snowfall, a few inches at first and now measuring well over a foot.

2. My brother is the coolest. Earlier in the day, he went outside wearing shorts, knee-high blue soccer socks, and hiking boots. He rang the door and when I asked him what he was doing, he replied, “Just browsing.” I could tell he was thinking how weird it is, now that we’re older, to not be racing outside at the first sign of snow.  Then, sometime later this afternoon, he came downstairs looking like a terrorist (I know that’s not exactly PC), black mask pulled down over his face, only his eyes and nose uncovered. “Where are you going?” my dad asked, to which my brother answered, “Gonna build a snowman.” But of course, right?

3.  I’m still a kid at heart. I was pretty content to spend the day indoors, warm and toasty by the fireplace, but I knew I couldn’t let my brother have all the fun. I pulled on old clothes, tall boots, and a winter cap and trailed outside after him. We quickly devised a strategy, using buckets and boogie boards to transport snow from the backyard to the front–keeping the front yard relatively pristine except for a trench through a foot or so of snow to our “construction site.” An hour and a half later, our snowman was complete–mullet and all.

4. Skiwear is unbelievably warm. My winter wardrobe often errs on the side of impractical, my jackets never sufficient on their own, leading me to wear layer (after layer) of various sweaters and hoodies. I did the same today, but pulled on an extra proper winter jacket of my brother’s on top. “You’re wearing the one with naked women on it?” my mother asked, having never been a fan of the soccer brand, Kappa. Scandalous or not, the jacket proved warmer than I’m used to and just what I needed to keep me going outside.

5. Snow isn’t as exciting to today’s kids as it used to be. Although the prospect of a snow day doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon, I was amazed at how quiet our suburban street was…all day. Only once did I see two kids playing outside, and that was for a mere fifteen minutes or so. Gone are the days, apparently, of spending all day romping around in the snow, insufficiently dressed, red-cheeked and wide-eyed with wonder. My brother and I spent the day reminiscing about the snow days of our childhood and for a few moments, it felt like no time had passed at all. Our beloved mother even had hot chocolate (with marshmellows, of course!) waiting for us on the stove inside.

Does it get any better than that?

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Filed under Photography

travels with my brother.

“And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.”

–Dave Barry

My brother's entry on the visitors' board at a craft shop.

My brother is a man of few words. I was reminded of this when he picked me up from the airport in Wichita, Kansas, last Friday night. Kansas seemed like an odd destination, especially after a semester in London, but I’d come to keep him company on his 23-hour drive home for Christmas break. He transferred out to a small town called McPherson this semester to play soccer for a small college, and I knew this was most likely my only chance to see this new alternate universe he inhabits.

After a greasy breakfast at Neighbor’s Cafe on Saturday morning (and a few moments of confusion whereby we were mistaken for a couple–“Mr and Mrs?” our waiter asked to Grant’s horror) we headed out to an even smaller town fifteen minutes away called Lindsborg–otherwise known as Little Sweden, USA. My parents had walked around it when they flew out for a visit in October and I expected it to be just the sort of place I love, the kind of towns I spent a month exploring around the North Island of New Zealand: tiny populations, quirky personalities, and outrageous claims-to-fame that only small town tourism boards can invent.

As a collection of at least twenty painted Swedish dalas placed outside shops had me running back and forth across the main street, Grant walked slowly along as I revelled in the whimsical touches of Scandinavia here in the heartland of Kansas and questioned patient proprietors of shops like the Wild Dala Winery about where exactly all this had come from.

“Alright, I think I’m ready,” I said finally, my camera’s memory card nearly groaning under the weight of a hundred photos and my capacity for dalas nearly reached. We made our way through a few back streets, around the campus of a local university, and then back, I thought, towards McPherson. But then Grant turned the car away from the highway.

“Where are we going?” I asked, but no sooner had the words been spoken then there appeared in the woods a one-lane bridge, the kind of bridge built from a structure of criss-crossing iron beams. They were painted green, had strings of Christmas lights wrapped around them, lit even in daylight, and the words God Jul–‘Merry Christmas’ in Swedish–painted across the top front beam. It was set back between leafless trees and a narrow creek ran swiftly beneath.

“How’d you know it was here?” I asked, surprised.

“I saw it,” he said simply, probably having little idea of how it touched me or how much it meant.

I hopped out of the car to get a few shots, struck by the beauty of the Christmas bridge, but thinking mostly of how we don’t always need words to know someone cares.

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Filed under Travel