An early memory of winter as a new Canadian.
I had been watching her for a while. Right this moment, she was just a small dark
dot on the horizon of the wide snowy school playground. I mustered up my nerve and approached. I’d never spoken on the playground unless spoken to. As the shy and awkward relatively new Portuguese kid at the school, I was still nervous about my new language skills.
“Hi,” I said. Funny, that. Not so long ago I didn’t even know what that word meant. I clearly recall a time when I would stand in bewilderment as people walked by and said “Hi,” with a friendly wave of their hand. What are they saying? Whatis this ‘Hi’?
Now, here I was approaching this tall lovely Canadian girl, hoping she would befriend short, plain me. I knew her name was Julie and she had moved
here from Toronto. I too was familiar with moving to a new place, having come here from a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Back then Canada was
just this looming mass of brown and green in the pictures my mother showed me –
so far away across the vast expanse of water.
Now, years later, I was looking across a vast expanse of water, only this time it showed itself as cold, brilliant white snow. Snow first made itself known to
me in wild wisps of blowing white as we deplaned in Toronto. Having never experienced winter like this, it was easy to mistake it for a monster, swirling madly at my little six year-old feet. Monster indeed! Especially since one of my lovely new-for-Canada red leather sandals went missing in that mad February drift.
The school playground was immense to us back then. Not one for winter sports
(c’mon, I was born on an island!), and still too shy to be friendly, I took
solace inside my own head. The playground, with its frosty white blanket, became a giant white-iced cake, and the two basketball poles the candles.
Each recess I ventured out to the giant’s cake alone. How I got to be on a giant
white cake is beyond me. But now, with the prospect of a visitor on this cake-land, someone in whom I recognized a similar loneliness to mine, I conjured up adventures made for two. Would I finally be able to scale the basketball post candles to see what lay beyond the rim of the cake? Would I, with the help of this new friend, finally find the perfect lost object that would make my little icing fort
complete? As it turned out, that would be an adventure for a future recess.
Today, as a fully fledged Canadian, almost forty years later, I reflect back to that early time in Canada, when snow was not associated with cold and inconvenience, but with beauty and magic. Now, if I’m careful, I still catch a glimpse of magic in the silence of falling snow.