As I embarked on the long walk back from the Vassar Athletic and Fitness Center (AFC) to my cozy dorm in Lathrop, I felt a little droplet of water fall square on my cheek. As it slid down my face like a solitary tear, I thought to myself: “Ugh, I don’t even have an umbrella.” I was annoyed that my tired and aching body would be drenched by another rainy night on campus. Then, I noticed the drops remained on my coat in the form of little white specks. It’s snowing! All of a sudden, I wasn’t exhausted or annoyed anymore. I was back in first grade, during winter break, playing in the snow with my sister while my parents shoveled the giant white heaps from our driveway in Chester Springs, PA. I remembered curiosity getting the better of me and asking my sister through chattering teeth if it was okay to eat the snow. She replied in her know-it-all manner: “Well, it’s just frozen water. You’ll just be, like, really hydrated.” She didn’t say “duh,” but every time my sister spoke between the ages of 11 and 14, the “duh” was implied and omnipresent. Inspired by my trip through past memories, like a child that doesn’t know any better than to listen to every impulse, I stuck my tongue out to taste the snowflakes as I made my way past the TAs. It was instinctive; it was snowing and my tongue had to know.
Since my family moved to Hyderabad in 2012, a city in South India where jackets are an unnecessary expense, I hadn’t seen or felt snow. That conversation with my sister was my last memory of snow. This was my reunion with snowflakes. This was also the first time in my life that nostalgia held any real power over me. It gently stretched my lips into the widest smile and held them there as I looked up at the sky in wonder. It provided me with warmth and the burst of energy I needed to realize that I had actually missed the snow. This was a shocking revelation since I was worried that my time in a tropical country would make me New York winter’s most gullible victim. However, the snow was already forming a little mountain on my head, and the cold was seeping from the ground into my Converse—I felt nothing but comfort.
Snow meant time with my family, something I was missing since coming to campus. I took out my phone and sent a video of the snow coating the ground to my family group chat. I followed it up with a one-sentence text that failed to capture the complexity of what I was feeling but made my excitement clear: “IT’S SNOWING!!!!!!!!” What I really wanted to say: “I miss you, and I wish we were all together like we were the last time I remember it snowed.” My heart was full at the thought of re-experiencing snow, but I also longed to hear my parents reminding me and my sister to bundle up before we raced out the door to go sledding. In that moment, I didn’t know how to thread together those loose thoughts. I missed my family in so many ways and was so grateful for the snow that night that I couldn’t form the long-winded sentences I now write to express myself.
As I walked into Lathrop with a dazed smile still taking up the majority of my face, telling everyone I ran into that it was snowing, my phone buzzed. It was a text from my dad in response to my brief video. Like father, like daughter, he had an equally short response: “Let it snow, let it snow…” There weren’t numerous lines to read between, but somehow I felt as though he and I were thinking the same thing. Once upon a time, snow used to mean having a family snowball fight. Now, it meant reminiscing about the times we had family snowball fights. Of all the things nature already gifts us, it was on Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:32 p.m. that I learned that it could also gift me parts of my childhood in a manner so vivid that it was as though no time had passed at all. I hope that every time it snows, you think about what every past snow meant to you, good or bad, and how many new memories the coming winter has to offer. Just as I did during the first snowfall of the season. Like Mr. and Mrs. Gummadapu would say, make sure to wear a scarf. And a hat. And gloves. And also three sweaters of course. I might be making fun of them, but they’re right. You can never be too prepared for what the snow may bring.