first snow in boston, first snow in hand and the journey of first good-byes from the heart
i have been monitoring the winter situation in the US almost on a daily basis since november last year. it has been a long wait for the real winter or at least for snow, the unofficial mascot of winter, it came late this winter in the US. snow only arrived middle of january instead of november or december of previous years.
having lived in snow-less asia all your life makes the arrival of snow both an exciting and daunting experience.
i remember the first time i saw snow in the US – it was in the early morning of a november month many years ago somewhere in new jersey where we stayed in a good friend’s house. we woke up early in the morning as we were flying back out to california. it was a shock, in a good way, to go out of the house and suddenly saw the whole neighborhood covered with a fine white snow blanket. color was absent except for white over every space. the place had color just the previous day!
it felt like we were looking at a painting of the place we have been staying in but the artist decided to put an abundant layer of white on the whole painting. it felt like a giant spray paint was used to lay on it an even spread of fine white snow. it was early morning and the painting was untouched and unbroken by anything, just beauty and wonderment in white snow.
it was really spectacular and would have wanted to get a near boil coffee in a mug, get thick blankets and sit on the porch and enjoy the view. but we didn’t have time to enjoy it as we needed to catch our flight back to california.
we were going to be driving to the airport and our host was good enough to give us a briefing on what to expect and what to do in driving through snow, it would be our first time to do that. aside from getting the all important briefing on driving through snow, we also needed to load our stuff into the rental which does not leave us a lot of time. more than half of the things we had belong to my 3-year-old daughter.
my android cellphone and ipod touch have the Weather Channel applications on them, even a widget on the android so that it automatically tracks and informs me of weather changes in boston. i woke up last saturday, manila time with tiny specks of snow on the weather channel application on my android phone. i immediately sent an email to boston asking – “have you seen snow yet?”.
i got an email reply, no words, just 4 pictures probably taken from a cellphone or ipod touch camera.
the reply was yet the most eloquent i ever got on email. it did that for many reasons beyond the pictures sent to me. it’s like some invisible melody coming from some place deep. this email, even without words talked straight to my heart and my heart spoke back.
time seemed to have stood still in the pictures. i wondered if seeing snow for the first time this way, which was very much like what we saw years ago evoked the same kind of feelings i felt then.
the first picture, above, is one taken from inside a window looking out to the scene outside. it reminded me of how many things have changed. things from the inside and the outside. in this picture life seemed to have changed in a very major way in over just a day so it seems. it was a familiar place because you saw it every day but now all of it seems gone, the same place redefined in a major way. while many have changed, you knew it is the same place.
all of it looking very different and yet it is the same place and knowing that with certainty. there is no contradiction there. it’s just how time and seasons operate and how it affects us and our lives in ways that sometimes we don’t understand and without permission. there is comfort there and mixed with some mystery. that is what happens when you see from the inside looking out.
i felt different things when i saw the picture above. while it seemed solitary and even sad, i saw a kiss, next a wave good bye and soon enough i see footsteps breaking the snow as they move away from me.
the footsteps will eventually go past my field of vision, beyond what i can see. and that is a good thing. more than what i can see means pathways i was unable to reach now conquered. that is always reason to be happy.
the good thing about pathways is that if it is there for the going, it is also there for the coming. in afternoons already too many to count, that has always happened. a doorbell, the same kiss and this time a hug instead of a wave good bye happened with regularity. the unsettled returns to what it was from the day that started in the morning.
but this is now snow. that is a whole different story altogether. i had broken snow myself on a pathway just a few times a long time ago. this new pathway and this snow will be broken almost everyday and soon it will be too many to count as well, made by different footsteps and not mine.
for now, i can only hope that this pathway returns to me eventually, in some future time. for sure not on a daily basis but at least once in awhile and that will be enough to fill the waiting and the half empty heart with overflowing joy.
the 3 year old is now 18 and in her hand, this time wearing red gloves, is snow. the picture above.
the snow was pressed , i can see her fingers’ indention on the snow. she went out, scooped some snow in her hand and pressed it to get a feel of snow. that is perhaps to make sure she is really there in boston. it is a good way to experience snow for the first time. it’s a very natural thing to do – squeeze the snow as if to find out what it is made of. i would have done the same.
it is also a very good way to answer the question i emailed her – “have you seen snow yet?”.
i immediately remembered that picture of hers, one of my favorites, when she was 3 when we went to New York. we had to bundle her up, with multiple layers of clothing as it was her first time to experience winter. coming from sunny philippines all her life, catching a cold is a key concern, 24/7.
for some reason she decided that her little hands held high and her face tilted with a big smile just like it is in that picture, above, will be the only pose she will ever have in that US trip. so all her pictures during that US trip had her in that exact pose. we didn’t bother asking her why she chose that pose nor did we ask her to change to other poses. it made her happy, so we let her be.
why is it that during her first trip to winter in New York when she was 3 that her hands were most prominent and now, 15 years after, she being 18 now, her first encounter with snow, the same hand is also prominent? it feels like some poetic string sprouted from that time , grew and traveled 15 years through time to this moment in that boston picture.
they are the same hands, its just that then they were from a 3 year old in that picture and now from an 18 year old holding snow.
i have read in baby books that the infant is born without yet knowing her body parts and that included her hands. the books said there will come a time when the baby will realize she has hands.
i was there when that happened to her.
it was an afternoon, she was on the bed, after a nice warm bath and she momentarily stopped wiggling her feet. i saw her whole body sort of freeze, then she stared at her hand, fixed her gaze at it then moved her head to follow it as she moved her hand from side to side. realizing what just happened, i quickly removed the cloth gloves we always put on her (prevents her from scratching her own face or poke her eye). i wanted her to see her own fingers too.
it happened exactly the way the baby books described it. it was sort of funny for me as i found the idea of not knowing you have hands sounded ridiculous and discovering it the way she did was even funnier. she looked silly keeping her gaze at her own hand and moving her head to follow her hand as she moved it.
while finding it funny, i felt a beautiful warm feeling came over me. i knew she has reached a new milestone in her life., just 3 months old. it felt good and i felt very honored to be right there to witness it when it happened. it was very special for a father to be right there with your daughter as she crossed a milestone, no matter how small it is. this was the first beginning of a new phase in her life that i had witnessed and through the years, there were many more firsts that i had witnessed.
a little sadness, more like missing her that i felt when i saw that picture of snow for the first time being in her hand. with oceans separating us, i could only experience it with her through an emailed picture. how i wish i was with her.
i had seen the same hands do many things for the first time – taking it out of her mouth from finger sucking to holding a nursing bottle to pulling at my arm and pressing my hand when she felt terrified while watching a scary movie to getting comfort as the doctor gave her an injection.
i saw that hand through different times of her life – from her first discovery that she had hands, to teaching her how to use that hand to hold things, to getting comfort and strength from me, to holding it to give her affection to a wave good bye at the airport. it has now grown to almost the size of my hand. that boston picture of snow in hand told it to me so eloquently – she is an adult now and all that i can do for now is to see what those hands are doing with several time zones separating us through a picture sent by email.
the upside is those hands that she discovered when she was 3 months old, then raised for pictures at 3 years old and now holding snow at 18 for sure will be doing great things that i will enjoy and be proud of soon enough. there is something in that a hand meant to touch is being able to touch my heart without physical contact. while i smile, my heart cries a little.
to bring back some warmth to my heart, i search for one end of that poetic string and attach it to my heart. then i heard my heart whisper through that string – “you are missed badly. and loved completely. then, now and forever.”
~~ a love letter to happiness ~~