The first real snowfall of the season occurred this week in Brno, Czech Republic. Granted, the snowfall was just a dusting of maybe four inches. As it fell, the view of Špilberk Castle disappeared from my apartment’s picture glass window. Snow covered the branches of the trees and I reminisced about this time of year when winter snowfall would come to Somerset, my hometown in Western Pennsylvania in the United States
I have always thought of January differently than other months. It is a bleak time of year. Yes, the daylight hours are increasing but January also has penetrating cold and blustery winds. It is time when one’s exhaled breath drifts away in a cloud of steam. It follows the celebrations of Christmas and New Years and it seems to me to be a time for resting and recovery from them. By a burning fireplace seems to be the place of comfort.
The Brno snowfall reminded me of being a youngster, reading by the light cast from the fireplace in our house and hopes that tomorrow might bring a school closing “snow day.” Such days were not uncommon in Somerset in January. As certain as my Dad would have a fire burning to keep us warm, immense snow blizzards were normal in the Allegheny Mountains.
Similar snowfalls to the one in Brno would bring transportation and commerce to a halt in many places. But it didn’t seem to make any difference in Brno. Life was just a little inconvenienced and otherwise was quite normal. The same as when I grew up, the walkways became icy and slippery and regular shoes gave way to winter boots.
My apartment in Brno overlooks a large courtyard for the seminary next door. Children play in the snow as I did at their age. Today in the courtyard stands a snow “family” with twigs for arms and across the way is a snow fort where raging snowball battles occur. As a child I recall playing outdoors so long in January that my fingers turned numb from the cold and I am certain that several of the Czech youngsters feel that as I once had.
Snowfall at home, as it does in Brno, meant time to bring out sleds and ice skates. In Brno the smiles on the young faces are the same as parents take their children to nearby hills to enjoy an exhilarating sled ride or to find that favorite pond to skate.
I can recall how much fun we had as children as we went sledding and skating until dark before heading home to dry our clothes and warm up by the fireplace along with a mug of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows.
It is fun to watch the Czech children and reminisce about those days when we were young. My how exciting it is for me to see the kids in Brno responding to that first snowfall the same way… and restore those often forgotten memories of growing up.