Madelyn snuggles up in her blankets, the glow of the nightlight illuminating the curve of her cheek and her small fist rubbing her eye.
“Do you want to say anything to God?” I ask as I tuck the blankets around her.
“Yeah,” she says. I stop in surprise. For weeks I’ve been asking if she wants to pray at night. She’s always told me, “You can do it.”
“Go ahead,” I say, not wanting to make a big deal of it. Inside, my mommy heart is beating a little faster and my throat is a little tight.
“God, please, I want you to send snow, because I love snow and I want it to snow and I want to play in the snow.” Her words tumble out, then stop abruptly. She looks at me, uncertain what to say next.
“Amen,” I say and kiss her forehead as I calculate in my head the odds of her prayer being answered.
I remember another young girl with dark hair and a voracious capacity for wonder who prayed a similar prayer. I was a little older than my daughter is now and prayed for snow too despite living in the desert, surrounded by prickly cactus, dry, cracked ground and colorless rocks. I called the weedy, anemic patch of green in my backyard “grass” and hoped every year that we would get a snow day. Year after year, my prayers went unanswered.
But I believe that God has heard my little girl’s prayer. I leave her room that night with a plan to check the weather app.
The odds don’t look good. It is our first winter living in the Pacific Northwest, a land where green is deep and the water plentiful. A land with seasons and a beauty that leaves this desert girl stunned. But even here, snow in December is uncommon. The weather projections say we will get rain – lots of it – and then the temperature is going to heat up to a balmy forty degrees. Snow isn’t anywhere on the forecast for the next two weeks.
A week later, the rain is falling late in the afternoon, as it often does, but this time it’s mixed with ice. As I wash the dishes, I notice the small round pebbles of frozen rain accumulating on our porch.
Scrub, wipe, rinse. I glance out the window – still dreary gray drops. Scrub, wipe, rinse. I watch the soapy bubbles slide off the pan and swirl down the drain. Where is the little girl who could see grass in a patch of weeds? The little girl who offered prayers for snow in the desert? Not here, that’s for sure.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t see the rainbows in the soap bubbles.
But I am desperate that day for just a little bit of wonder. So, I close my eyes and I whisper: “God, please let it snow.”
I feel childish as soon as I utter it. If it snows, it won’t be because one tiny little human asked for it, will it? Surely, it will be because the air temperature dropped a few degrees, or maybe because God has other grand plans for the weather, not because a tired mom prayed while scrubbing dishes.
I look out the window again as I dry my hands on the dish towel. Perhaps it is a trick of the light, but the icy raindrops did look a little more flaky now. I walk over to the sliding glass door and stick my hand out trying to catch them. One lands in my palm. It looks sort of round and crunchy – not like snow but definitely not rain.
There is a great deal about winter that I have yet to understand. Before this, I thought there was simply snow and rain. But apparently there is also freezing rain as well sleet that stubbornly refuses to be snow.
I go to the door one last time, drawn by a weird hope that maybe if I stare hard enough I will see a miracle occur right before my eyes. Pulling the door open, I catch my breath. There, floating in the air, is a very small snowflake.
I rush for the stairwell where I can hear Madelyn playing with my sister.
“Sister! You guys need to see this. Get up here!” I can’t help smiling, as I grab pink socks and boots for Madelyn. “It’s snowing – really snowing,” I call. “Hurry!”
We shimmy into boots and rush out into the cold, forgetting our jackets in our hurry to get out into the snow.
The porch is getting whiter by the second and off in the distance, I can see the rain slowing and turning into white specks that hang in the air, falling in slow motion, like gravity is momentarily suspended.
I turn my face up toward the sky and watch large, fat flakes drift lazily toward me. I catch one on my tongue and taste the icy cold of winter. “Needs sugar,” I chortle.
My daughter giggles and spins in circles. “It’s snow, it’s snow, it’s snow!” she crows, her hands in the air while she twirls.
My sister and I vacillate between awestruck silence and childish giggling. “It’s snowing!” we say over and over, looking at each other in surprise. Was this really happening? My daughter shows no surprise, only unadulterated delight.
The white gathers in corners of the yard, and the silent street pulls the snow over itself like a white quilt. I take a deep breath. So, this was real winter. I bask in it like sunshine and drink up every icy drop.
Madelyn throws a snowball at her unsuspecting aunt, eyes alight with mischief. My sister scoops up a mound of snow herself and launches it in return. Madelyn’s shrieks echo in the snowy silence. Inside our neighbors’ houses, lights glow in windows and the sky darkens as snow continues to fall steadily. It transforms our porch, the trees, the rooftops, and – perhaps the most transformed of all – me.
I turn my face up toward the sky to watch the flakes falling. At first, I only see the blur of white dots, streaks across the sky. But then I focus on one, just one, a single snowflake formed like a thumbprint, individual like my daughter’s prayer, my prayer, and this miraculous answer. I spin in wonder.
I catch the flake in my palm. This one is for me, I am certain.
Words by Ashly Hilst.