I didn’t grow up with snow, or cold weather. Cold in São Paulo, Brazil, means if you wear a leather jacket over a light sweater you’ll bake. In my childhood, snow fell only in foreign movies, like Charade or Home Alone. I saw snow for the first time in my 20s.
I was in Germany, in a small town in the middle of the Black Forest, at the end of November. The town felt like it was just out of a fairy tale with little cafés, smell of pine trees and people with rosy cheeks walking well-behaved dogs. I was strolling down Main Street, looking for a place to eat, when snow started to fall in big cinematic flakes. I did all those things people from the tropics do when we experience the first snow of our lives: I opened my mouth to taste the flakes, I danced in the street, I touched the white powder on the ground in disbelief. Now, in retrospect, I find the scene ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as the hideous red puffy jacket I was wearing. It was the cheapest I could buy back in Frankfurt, when the cold started to get unbearable under my old Brazilian leather jacket. I looked like a super sized strawberry.
My second snow experience was in Vienna, a few years later. It was Christmas time and it snowed all week. Although my winter outfit improved a little (I upgraded to a long black coat) I was still in awe with the white flake experience, waking up every morning in my friend’s house and going straight outside, in order to dig my shoes deep in the pile of snow accumulated overnight. My Austrian companions laughed at me and called me crazy, while having their warm breakfast by the fireplace.
My third snowy winter was again in Vienna. My kind friends gave me an anticipated Christmas present: my first pair of snow boots, lined with fake fur, so I could take long walks in the snow. Before one of these excursions, I parked my rented car at a perfect spot, close to a hospital. It was towed with no mercy. I spent a good part of Christmas Eve at the tow parking lot, in the outskirts of the city, trying to communicate with a big man with a black power hairdo, who spoke nothing but German. The price of the ticket and subsequent release of my car was more expensive than any Christmas present I had bough that year.
I stopped counting my snows when I moved to New York and became a sort of winter creature. I still enjoy the snow, despite the slush, the fear of driving on ice and the frozen pipes in the basement. I love the snow days when there’s no school and my front door is crowded with boots from the neighborhood kids, who come for hot chocolate after playing in the ice. Despite people’s complaints, I don’t care about shoveling and I still love a good walk while the snow is falling, just to enjoy the silent streets. After twenty years of white winters, now I own coats for all snow occasions and fashion requirements: long, short, classic and sportive, with down feathers or detachable windbreakers. But I could never wear strawberry red again.