Someone flipped a switch. I know, because things don’t happen like this in real life- usually you can see it coming. In Cape Town you always know. When pickled fish is cooking and hot cross buns are lining supermarket shelves, you know that Easter and winter is coming…
I have always loved sunshine. When I was younger, we had a swing set in our yard, and in the late afternoon I would don shorts, sit on the swing platform, stretch my legs and close my eyes. Swaying back and forth with late afternoon rays embracing me was my idea of heaven. Well, until my mother would call me in, saying the sun was bad for me! Of course I know that now, but then my mind would always wander to a world of an endless summer.
Summer child that I am, I have always wondered what snow would be like. Sure, my father drove us to the mountains to see the snow a couple of times, but then everyone had the same idea. Bumper to bumper most of the way, by the time we arrived only patches of snow remained. Freezing, we wouldn’t even get out of the car to actually touch it.
Then there was the time on a road trip– we were somewhere between Kimberley and Oudshoorn when it started snowing. We threw the car doors open before we even came to a halt. We were elated! Dancing, jumping up and down- we probably looked crazy- but then everyone on the road stopped to do the same thing. Hey, it’s not every day that it snows in South Africa!
My first taste of the real thing was when I first visited Macedonia in 2012. It was late November and I had seen on the news that it was about to snow. For about a week, I kept running up to the window to check, but alas, no snow, just dreary overcast skies. Then one week night, after 6 pm, I opened the door just to check- and sure enough, I saw tiny flakes billowing to the ground.
I immediately ran out, arms open, trying to catch snowflakes. I watched as the patterned little ice sculptures silently fell to earth. I was in awe. The dark evening was calm and quiet, snow whispered down, and I was dancing around like a crazy person- much to the delight of my soon- to – be in-laws.
I looked over and saw the family cat (who was also experiencing his first winter) gingerly sticking a paw out to feel this new thing- I always like to think of this as the moment we bonded.
I left for home a few days later, and even with the car heater blasting I was freezing. It was -9°C (15°F) and I had never been that cold. Still, I was thrilled.
So when I returned to Macedonia last year, I was excited to spend an entire winter here and experience my first white Christmas. I lovewatching Christmas movies. The lights, the cheerfulness, even the snowball fights- it always seemed so magical…
But it all a lie!
It started snowing on the 26th of December (Boxing Day) and didn’t let up until the end of March. The few days that it actually stopped, it was so cold, it felt like someone had locked me in a deep freeze! This was not how it happened in the movies. No one ever looks cold.
I had my first snowy New Year’s Eve- and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live…Because it was -18°C (-0.4°F)!
I repeat: minus 18°!!!!
Brrr. I get the chills just thinking about it. And to think, everyone here agreed that it was cold- but not as cold as usual. Apparently, it sometimes gets to around -30°! I can’t even wrap my brain around that.
So, what does happen when you mix a South African with snow?
It might cross your mind, that you were somehow teleported into the Twilight Zone. Into a parallel universe where space, time and your mind, is frozen over.
You might shed a few tears, because your social media feeds will be filled with summer fun and beach days.
Your feet sinking and then crunching the almost feather- like blanket. Inhaling pure, frost- bitten air. Mushing (and throwing) your first snowball and looking out your window to discover a literal winter wonderland.
Someone flipped a switch. Winter is coming and I am moving on, but I will never forget my first true northern winter…