When I awoke this morning there was snow in our backyard. Actual snow. My wife and I were giggling like kids on Christmas morning.
This is our first Birmingham snow. We have only been Alabama residents for one week, and already we’ve experienced all four seasons. Maybe five.
I staggered from the bedroom and let two dogs outside to pee. They bounded into a snowdrift, kicking up tufts of white powder, barking like protagonists in a Jack London novel. Their noses were covered in confectioners’ sugar, their paws were blackened with mud.
They rolled around in the snowy grass like they were putting out fires. My wife was so overcome with glee that she joined them.
I haven’t seen her laugh like that in a while. It’s been a long year.
The world looked calm beneath the weight of the new fallen accumulation. There was heavy dusting on our camellias, on our daffodils, on the Virginia creeper, and in the oak trees. The neighbor’s pansies had gone to be with Jesus.
There was a stubborn snow crust clinging to every horizontal surface. Snow on my truck hood. Snow on the green Waste Management bins. Snow on the neighbor’s cat.
Snow on powerlines, snow atop fence pickets, snow coating automotive hubcaps. There was even snow covering the statue of the Virgin Mary, perched in the garden of a nearby home. The poor Blessed Mother had an icicle dangling from her nose.
There were thick quilts of snow blanketing distant rooftops, bright white, catching the morning sun. There was snow on window panes, collected in street gutters, topping bird nests, piled on defunct satellite dishes, and on orphaned water heaters, lying dead in the yards of rundown homes.
This morning, when I drove into town to run errands, I passed the train, clacking along. There was a thick sheet of snow clutching to the tops of Amtrak passenger cars, the boxcars, the centerbeam cars, hopper cars, coil cars, gondola cars, flat cars, tanker cars, well cars, and the rear diesel locomotive.
I drove past children attempting to make snow angels in their front yards. There wasn’t enough snow to make proper angels, their backsides were covered in mud and grass stains. But their little hearts were in the right place.
I saw a few more neighborhood kids, middle-school age, desperately attempting to make a snowman from the light cropping of snow on their sidewalks. Their snowman ended up being about the size of a few golfballs, and was more dirt than snow.
Later, I stopped at the Shell station to fill up. I met a homeless man named Robert who was huddled against the wall of the convenience store. His boots were insulated with plastic Publix bags and duct tape. His windburned face was wrapped with a moving blanket.
Robert told me he slept in the snow last night. The man’s breath could have killed a small mammal. Even so, I gave him cash because alcoholics need to eat breakfast just like anyone else.
There was snow covering the parking lot of the Baptist church, snow on the Methodist church playground, snow on the rooftop of an old Catholic chapel, snow on the Episcopal steeple, snow on the Church of Christ.
Oddly, there was no snow on the Presbyterian churches. I asked my friend, Charles, about this. He is a Presbyterian minister.
“It never snows on Presbyterian churches,” said the rev. “We don’t need snow. We’ve been fully frozen since 1807.”
I pulled into a fast-food breakfast joint to grab some cholesterol. The girl behind the counter was fiddling on her phone. She showed me a video from her cousin’s house in Huntsville. The video showed a single-wide trailer covered in a foot of snowfall, with kids romping outside, wearing Disney-print pajamas, lobbing snowballs at unsuspecting parents.
There was an older man in line ahead of me, also playing on his phone. He was a truck driver, wearing a New Orleans Saints ball cap. He told me he left Kentucky yesterday and had been driving all night.
“At about three in the morning,” he said, “I-75 was nothing but a whiteout. It was beautiful.”
He showed me a video on his iPhone to prove it. Which only led me to wonder: Why was a commercial truck driver operating an iPhone camera while careening 85 down the interstate in a snowstorm?
When I got home, the snow in central Alabama was already beginning to recede and the fun was over. The crust on our roof was melting in the sunlight. There was a steady drip coming from our gutters. Little chunks of ice occasionally fell from trees.
By noon, the Blessed Virgin was unencumbered by the snowfall of mankind, and the neighbor’s cat was booking accommodations in Florida.
A train whistle was sounding in the far off. Soon, the world was bright and lovely, and there was no evidence of snow whatsoever. The robins and northern mockingbirds were singing Gospel music. The sky was haint blue.
But I will always remember our first Birmingham snow.