What is about snow that gets us into such a hyper-ventilating state of euphoria? That brings out the child in us, urges us to believe that the white, white, oh-so-white substance around us has transformed our world into a fairy tale of which we are now a part. In the presence of all those exquisite flakes parachuting down from heaven, coating the world in white even if your heart is feeling dark and dirty, it somehow doesn’t matter as much. Because snow heals all, doesn’t it? Or at least suspends all. Suspends disbelief. In the snow, I am no longer a recently separated woman struggling to come to terms with my broken marriage; my new, uninvited status of ‘single’.
When I was on the cross-country train earlier today, staring out of the window at the whitewashed fields, I started musing, as dreamers like me tend to do when travelling by train. And, duly inspired by the unexpected sheathes of Arctic weather that have so excited and alarmed the entire British Isles, these were my thoughts and memories. Snow memories, I call them.
It was in the snow that I met my first love – a young, dashing Benedictine monk who was promoted to the role of male protagonist in my novel, For Some We Loved. (Not that he’s aware of this yet. But when it’s published he sure will be!) Walking side by side in the freshly fallen snow, heading up the hill from the monastery to the visitors’ guest house, where a grimy coach was parked, waiting to take me and twenty-three other sixth form girls back to our school in Preston, worst luck. I was seventeen and had just fallen in love. With him, the gorgeous, black-robed monk walking beside me. In the snow. Of course we didn’t end up living happily ever after, but he did end up being part of my life forever. Kind of.
Fast-forward seventeen years, and another snow memory, another love, swirls through the wint’ry haze of time. An expired love. Hubby Number One, on his way out. The affair, the heartbreak, the realisation of ‘single mum’ status now to be my lot, unless I happen to fall in love again, which I know, I absolutely know, will never ever happen. Not ever. (It did, obviously.) Christmas Eve. Drizzle. Hubby staying with me and the children for the Christmas holidays. Last time ever, as it turned out. The sudden urge to go out on a walk. On my own. Let hubby babysit. At least let him do that much. Let me be free for an hour. In the sad, ugly drizzle, to match my sad, ugly mood. Only it didn’t last. Neither the drizzle, nor my mood. The drizzle soon turned to sleet, and then – oh joy! – to snow! Huge, chunky flakes of it, tumbling down in huge, chunky swathes, covering the pavements, the rooftops, the trees, the parked cars, everything, in that glorious, lush, white icing that so lifts the human heart. I stand still in the milky dark for several moments, face turned up at the falling snow, blinking at the darling flakes. It’s Christmas Eve, of all nights of the year, and it’s snowing. Thank you, I say aloud, despite my broken heart.
Fast-forward another year. A sexy snow memory this time. Again it’s the Christmas holidays, and again it’s snowing. (This was Poland, needless to say, not England.) It’s snowing really fast. I love fast snow. It’s late at night, very late, but the street lights that seep in through the uncurtained window reflect the huge, dramatic, florescent flakes. I’m sitting by said window, in an old, grotty, scantily furnished flat. I’m pretty scantily furnished myself – as in what I’m wearing. Which happens to be practically nothing. Well, okay. Nothing. At least the flat is warm. And the Clint Eastwood-lookalike guy who rendered me clotheless a few moments ago has nipped across to the other side of the dimly lit room to select some music before we start … well. You know. And while he’s fiddling about with CDs, occasionally calling out in that sexy American accent of his, “Do you like Pink Floyd? The Rolling Stones? Bob Dylan?” I’m gazing through the window at the snow, calling out yes to whatever he asks. I’m gazing at those fast-falling flakes, each one of them floodlit, each one of them plunging to their doom on the pavement below, but by their noble sacrifice, painting the world ever whiter, plunging me ever deeper into that fairy tale, even if I am half wondering how it’ll feel, any minute now, to have a fling myself, extramarital sex, and with a gorgeous guy at that! Hey, Hubby Number One, you aren’t alone in your extramarital exploits! I can do it too! Hah! And the snow keeps falling as my partner in crime turns on the music, and his footsteps reach a crescendo as they approach me, sitting by the window, with nothing on, watching the snow.
Fast-forward another year, to another snow memory. I’m in love again! It’s happened! It’s really happened! Hubby Number One is now relegated to Best Friend, and I don’t want him back. I want my New Man! But New man is bloody difficult, as it happens. So difficult, we seem to do nothing but argue. About how ‘wobbly’ I am. Need kills desire, he says. Bollocks to that, I say. But I didn’t say it then. I just wept. And wept and wept and wept, on account of being in deep, crazy, hysterical love, far deeper and crazier than I’ve ever known. And part of me just can’t cope with it. The other part thinks that love as powerful as this has got to be the real thing, right? This time, surely, it’s got to last, right? No more heartbreak, right? But here’s the problem. The wonderful guy I am so madly in love with is yelling words of termination at me. “You’ve fucked it!” he’s yelling. “We’re through!” he’s yelling. I won’t go into what I’ve done to make him feel that way. (Maybe in another blog. Or just read my novel, Thirteen States of Being, which explains it all.) I don’t want to hear his horrible words, but it’s hard not to hear them on account of his yelling. He springs up from the kitchen chair and charges up the stairs, two at a time, heading for our bedroom, soon just to be my bedroom again. And as I hear him flinging his clothes out of the wardrobe and drawers, packing urgently, blindly, unable to get away from me quick enough, I sit in a cold stupor, my tears dried up, my sobs expired, and I stare out the window. At the snow. Falling fast. The world is turning white before my eyes, and my heart is broken. Again. But still I stare at the snow. I stare at it, because nothing is real, in the snow.
As it happened, my New Man didn’t leave that night. He became Hubby Number Two, and he left twenty years later. All of five months ago. Broken heart time again. Only this time the snow wasn’t falling, because it was autumn. Autumn leaves were falling. So that made it even worse.
Give me snowflakes any day.