“It’s snowing!” Those words used to instil immediate excitement and joy when I was a child. Waking up to snow was somewhat of an unusual event in northern England. We did get quite a lot of winter weather but it was more often sleet or wet snow that didn’t hang around too long.
Our winters were long, dreary and wet, grey skies were the norm and temperatures hovered a few degrees above freezing on most days. I remember sliding, not skating as this was not an English sport, on local ponds, these were not deep but rather flood water that settled and froze. Days when you could actually bring out a sled were childhood celebrations but, because the snow was usually just an inch or two deep, there would be lots of stops and starts as rocks would be poking through the snow.
There were several big snowfalls during my childhood but these would be wet snow and soon turned to slush, this would pile up at the side of the road, resulting in icy cold water coming over my boots when trying to cross over. I remember several times when our classroom would have sixty wet socks hanging over hot water pipes, drying off before we had to put them on again at home time.
We arrived in Canada on 1st November and within a few weeks got out first snow. Our children were delighted with the dry, fluffy stuff and couldn’t get enough of it. Dave and I also thought it was a thrill to play in it and took the kids sledding, to the local mountains, several times each winter.
Experiencing snow for travelling to work was not a problem that first winter, Dave worked quite near to home and the school was less than five minutes walk, for the girls.
During our sixteen years spent on the coast, we very rarely had trouble with snow as Dave worked a lot of graveyard shifts which made for a much easier commute as there was a lot less traffic and I always worked fairly close to home. Deep snow didn’t come too often and the resulting chaos in Vancouver didn’t really affect us in Port Coquitlam.
We lived on a steep hill and I only remember one time when I couldn’t get the car home and had to leave it at the bottom road, buses also used that hill so clearing it was a priority. Luckily we never seemed to get into the chaotic scene that is shown ot t.v. each winter, when Vancouver grinds to a halt.
However, the one time that I did run into trouble on snow was quite spectacular. We were driving home from our Christmas visit to the children, in Maple Ridge and I was taking my turn at the wheel. The Hope/ Princeton had a light snow covering and as we approached the last few miles into Princeton, the road was clear except for odd patches right in the centre.
On a four lane part of the highway, I went to overtake another vehicle when I hit a sleety patch. The wheels had a mind of their own and I lost complete control. The van turned a complete circle across the road, cars were approaching from the opposite direction and I couldn’t do a thing to stop the skid. The van hit the rocky edge of the grass and flipped through the air and hit a tree, then rolled back over to lie on it’s side.
I remember repeating God help us, while we were flying through the air and I could hear Dave saying Oh bloody Hell. In the few seconds of our flight through the air I remember thinking that Dave had a different view of the hereafter! I honestly believe I was wrapped in the arms of an Angel as never felt pain as we hit and rolled, I just felt suspended.
We were not seriously hurt, Dave received broken collarbone and ribs, I got a head injury that later lead to seizures but, looking at the state of the van afterwards, it is a miracle that we survived. The next time we took that road we stopped at the accident scene, the damage to the tree was way over our heads so the van was really in the air when it hit. Several years later and the tree was dead but we live to tell the story.
Okanagan snow is very different, usually very dry and fluffy, we are at an age when we really do not have to venture out in dangerous conditions so snow is more of an annoyance than a problem. However, I love to go out late at night, stand on the deck and listen to the absolute silence that a snowfall brings, everything is still and I feel a sort of reverence that a church inspires. Snow on Christmas Eve makes me feel very spiritual and I can imagine that special child being born, all those years ago. There was no snow around on his birth but, somehow, snow makes me feel closer to God.