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    First snow

    October 15, 1998
    The Iranian

    In Ahvaz...

    Gowing up in Ahvaz, snow was quite a mystery to me. Once in a while as I walked to school through the foot bridge over the fright trains that had arrived the night before from the north, I could see snow as a white blanket of clouds covering the tops of the boxcars. I remember once there was so much snow between Tehran and Boroujerd that it delayed the arrival of the trains in Ahwaz and they could not leave for their return trip until a few days later. On that weekend my father took a bucket to the tracks and came home with snow for us to see, feel and play with. My first experience with touching the heavy, watery white stuff was so much fun and it etched an image in my mind. I could imagine clouds breaking up in the sky into smaller pieces about the size of a large pillow and falling down as snow blankets covering everything around.

    In Mashhad...

    The lecture was boring, and the lecture hall on the second floor was warm and stuffy. I was falling sleep. I looked at my watch, we had been in class for over two hours and I wished I was outside. I turned my head looking out the window and I noticed tiny pieces of white stuff passing fast in an angle by the window. Mariam was sitting next to me and I quietly asked her what was going on outside. She gave me a long glance and said, "nothing...it is... just snowing!" Before she could finish her sentence, I got up and in a big hurry left the room skipping stairs and rushing outside. I could not believe my eyes. Everything about me was covered with snow and I still could not see any big pieces of snow and could not figure out how these tiny fluffy white stuff could manage to blanket everything so thoroughly.

    I had seen movies that showed people writing their names in the snow, shaking off snow as they walked into a room or the children rolling around in the snow, and gradually the image that I had in my mind began to change and I realized that yes I was witnessing the real thing even though it was not as wet or heavy as I imagined to be.

    Our class was over and my classmates were coming outside to go to the cafeteria for lunch. Everyone was looking at me, wondering why I was screaming with so much joy and jumping up and down with so much excitement over a minor snowfall! As everyone passed by, Mariam and I decided to walk in the snow and go home for lunch. Steady and fast the snow kept falling as we walked. Once in a while I could feel the tingle of snow flakes that made it into my neck, tickling me as they melted. I could see the flakes on Mariam's hair changing to drops of silver and embracing more flakes as we continued our walk home. While her mother was busy preparing lunch, Mariam's brothers and sisters joined us in the backyard playing in the snow. They were all smiles watching my pleasure and excitement in seeing a real snowfall for the first time.

    After a scrumptious lunch, we walked back to school. Snow was falling faster and fluffier than before and by now Mashhad's tree-lined streets had taken completely a now look. It seemed that someone had picked up a magic feather duster and brushed every leaf, twig, branch, and stem with a layer of shiny white gold. The contrast of white snow and dark tree bark, the bareness of brown skinny twigs and snow-covered bigger branches was creating a mysterious magic that covered everything like a veil on a face of a shy bride.

    I noticed that the pine, spruce and fir trees that we passed by, had hidden their green needles under the snow and had opened their hearts and extended their arms to embrace as many flakes as they could in their core. The dancing snow flakes falling in a hurry in harmony, the snow-covered trees and sidewalks, and the whisper of falling snow had silenced us as we listened to the sound of our footsteps and marveled at the beauty around us.

    Our afternoon class was about to start. There was so much activity going on outside that I could not see myself being able to sit through a three-hour lecture on Anthropology of Egypt. There were many old, majestic trees around the tall fenced-in volleyball court in the center of the school. Each one was looking more beautiful than the next. I decided to spend the afternoon outside watching them as they raced to hold each snow flake with care.

    I walked around and watched everyone going to class. The quite hush of snow was ringing in my ears and its calm coolness was warming up my heart. Passing by the volleyball court, I noticed that each diamond of the chain link fence was filled up by the snow, creating a lovely solid wall. I went around the corner and slowly opened the gate and entered. I could not believe my eyes! A sea of sparkling gems undisturbed, showing up their beauty and glory, shining. The clean untouched snow had followed the wind here and there creating beautiful waives and patterns. The tall fence all white and covered up, the snow all glorious, and I, in awe of the masterful work of art in front of me, were a sight to see.

    I sat down, looking around, picking a flake and following it till it landed on the shimmering snow. Looking at the sky and noticing the snow flakes greeting one another as they chased down towards me. The snow was getting lighter as the sky became brighter. I loved the seclusion that the fence provided me and the undisturbed snow was too tempting to leave it alone. The little girl in me gave into temptation and I began to run around in the snow that was by then about three or four inches deep. I rolled, I slid, I fell, and I sat in the middle looking up at the sky and trees. I ran from one end of the court yard to the other and then stopped suddenly to pick up a handful of snow and throw it in the air. Years of wonderment and anticipation; years of waiting and wondering had finally ended and I was fully enjoying every flake of snow, body and soul.

    I had no idea how long I was sitting around enjoying the beauty around me when one of the school janitors called my name and told me that the Dean wants to see me in his office on the 4th floor right away. I started to think about why he wanted to see me. He was a very knowledgeable person but somewhat cold and old fashioned when dealing with students. Nervous and cold, I rushed to his office shivering, thinking about what could I have done wrong to be called into his office.

    Every faculty member on the 4th floor was there, all looking at me. Someone offered me a seat and a cup of tea. I realized that while I thought I was alone in the courtyard and was acting like a little girl playing in the snow, faculty members on the 4th floor had come to the window watching me experiencing my first snow! We had a wonderful conversation in a very warm and friendly manner as I drank cup after cup of tea.

    Throughout my stay at the university, on many occasions I would be the topic of conversation each time the first snow would arrive, and it did help me to have a very different relationship with most of the faculty that was not common in the old days. There were very few female students at the university and generally students were much older. I was invited to their homes to meet their families many times and usually they asked how I was doing as I walked by. This unusual relationship with stuffy older faculty members gave me the confidence to actively participate in class discussions. I was the only female student who would raise her hand to ask questions and follow up on the discussions and faculty members generally addressed me by my name which was quite unusual then. It also created some resentment among some of my classmates to see a young girl being noticed!

    Each year the first snow brings back many memories of those care-free days, the pleasures of a young heart and the simplicity of life in the days past. This year, my memories lingered longer. They were also much sweeter as I sat down to write and share them with you.

    About the author

    xAle (pronounced khaa-leh, maternal aunt in Persian) is an old timer who grew up in Iran when words such as mirAb, mAyeh khamir, Ab-anbAr and hAvan were part of daily life. Through stories and remembrances of old days, she will be sharing with us part of our past.


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