Winter Wondering


January 2013. My back yard in Florida.

I love snowy white winters, but ever since the Navy moved us to Florida, the only flakes we see are floating in milk-filled cereal bowls. So, I sit on my sunny screened porch in January, surrounded by green grass, ocean breezes, and palm trees, and I dream of snow.

I know, I know, that’s nuts. Crazy. Certifiable. But I can’t help it. Something was imprinted in my psyche many years ago, something that makes me associate winter with snow, and snow with pleasure.

As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, my heart filled with anticipation at the first snow. To us, snow, especially in copious amounts, meant FUN. Snowballs, sled riding, hot chocolate, and one of the most joyous occasions in a child’s life – SNOW DAYS.

I can recall falling off my flying red plastic sled in a puff of white on the hill behind our house, and laying a minute or two, to make sure I was still in one piece and to listen to the silence – how the snow absorbs noise and brings a soft quietness to the air. Packed and padded in protective layers, I felt swaddled like a baby, watching my breath ascend over me into the air. It was pure joy.

Ironically, a serious sledding accident in the winter of 1977 only strengthened my positive association with snow.

I was in the fifth grade, and it was the last night of our winter break from school, and also my father’s poker night. While the men played cards in our basement rec room, my brother and I listened to radio reports of a blizzard, and hoped for school closures.

Fueled by bravado (and a few beers), my father and his buddies decided it would be a good idea to take our 12-man wooden toboggan out for a run down the hill behind our house. My brother and I couldn’t believe our luck, and eagerly followed.

With my legs crisscrossed under the toboggan’s wooden curl, I sat in the front, four men and my brother behind me. Visibility was nil due to the blizzard and dark night, but there was a wide path between the houses for our ride. With the weight of the men, we took off like a bullet, and I pulled the ties of my parka hood tight to keep the snow from hitting my face.

About halfway down the hill – WHAM! The rest came in flashes: my father’s friend looking down wearing one of my hats, someone saying “I think it’s broken”, riding in the back of a truck, being carried on the toboggan into the hospital, three layers of pants being cut off, wanting my mom and dad.

I had broken my femur. Apparently, our toboggan had drifted off course, running into a white flagpole in our neighbor’s yard. I spent the next two and a half months in a hospital bed, with a weight hanging off the end of my foot.

To add insult to injury, during my lengthy hospital stay, the historic 1977 blizzard blew into town. Schools were cancelled for over two weeks, and I was stuck in a hospital bed watching Don Ho and eating    Jell-O.

One might think that the experience would have caused me to associate snow with pain; however, the pain of my broken leg paled in comparison to the envy I had for my peers who spent two glorious weeks out of school, sucking on icicles, throwing snowballs, and drinking hot chocolate.

So now, like Pavlov’s dog, when winter rolls around, I begin to drool.

Sometimes the Navy sends us somewhere that fulfills my nostalgic longings, like our last tour in snowy Stuttgart, Germany.

I must admit, there was a downside. Bundled up like the Michelin Man, I would trudge four flights down our military stairwell housing to our minivan, hazy with salt residue and laden with blackened hunks of snow behind each wheel. Despite spraying de-icing compound into the locks, the doors would often be frozen solid, requiring me to climb in from the trunk.

But now, even with the memories of crusted, frozen, gritty car doors still freshly juxtaposed against this balmy pastel Florida winter, I can’t help but long for snow. Big fluffy, white hunks dropping from tree branches. Delicate crystalline flakes drifting slowly from the sky.

Cold to the touch. Warm to my heart.

My girls, Anna and Lilly, in 2010 while stationed in Germany.

My girls, Anna and Lilly, in 2010 while stationed in Germany.


March 2007. Anna savoring a late spring snow while visiting Grammy back home in PA.


Hayden trying to break the land speed record.


Lilly reaching maximum happiness level.

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Comments: 21

  1. athenahm January 24, 2013 at 2:38 am Reply

    I grew up in Florida(the northern part, close to Panama City), and the Air Force finally introduced me to snow 3 years ago when we lived in Virginia. It was wet, annoying snow, though. Not a good experience. Currently, we are awaiting our next PCS in TLF in Southern Turkey where it is very similar to Florida weather, and we are headed to Baltimore in a month. I am kind of dreading snow, but hoping that I will finally get to have some good experiences with it….

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 24, 2013 at 7:22 am Reply

      OK, enough about snow, TURKEY??? How cool is that! While you’re overseas, take a hop up to Germany, and you will see beautiful snow that is FUN. Up there they have bobsled and sledding runs that are measured in kilometers, no lie! Plus the skiing is top notch. Go to Garmisch and you will change your mind about snow, I promise!

  2. susandaoustyoung January 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm Reply

    Hey, Lisa, I loved this. Having lived in Central Florida since the late 50’s (not my age…the late 1950’s), I’ve missed the changing seasons. It seems to get worse each year. This past month, though, we spent the holidays in Switzerland, as part of a home exchange. Over three feet of snow had dumped on our area right before we arrived, so I got a good dose of it while we were there. When reading about your accident, I could only think that your dad must have gone through some major guilt afterward…and your mom must have been furious with him! Susan

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm Reply

      Oh Susan, Switzerland was one of my absolute favorite places when we lived in Europe. It is simply heaven on Earth! About the accident, heck yes, my dad felt major guilt, and hell yes, my mom was mad! She still cringes at the thought of it to this day!

  3. Mrs. Franko January 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm Reply

    Dear God Lisa, Lilly looks like she is sledding in her pj’s and slippers!

    Mrs. Franko

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm Reply

      You are partially right! It was an unexpected snow during spring break years ago visiting my mom, so they just threw on coats and old hats my mom had around and hit the slopes! They had a blast because they never saw snow when we lived in VA.

  4. chef mimi January 21, 2013 at 10:17 am Reply

    Very funny! Ah, the mind of a child!

  5. energywriter January 21, 2013 at 9:34 am Reply

    Great story, Lisa. Makes me miss the white stuff. I tried to leave a comment but don’t think it worked. sd

  6. lauriebest January 21, 2013 at 9:33 am Reply

    Ah, the good ol’ days of lots of snow. Here, an hour west of Toronto, we haven’t had much for a few years. Even now, we’re lucky if we have an inch. I too remember the great blizzard of ’77…my son was born during it! We also stayed in the Stuttgart area– but during the summer. It snowed in late May that year…I was not impressed…Enjoy your time in the sunny south!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 21, 2013 at 11:01 am Reply

      So I guess you were also in the hospital during the 77 Blizzard. I feel your pain!

  7. Sharon January 21, 2013 at 9:32 am Reply

    Great story, Lisa. I loved snow when I was a kid, but now, not so much. I still love to walk in the falling snow. For the last few winters in Wisconsin I’d promise my car, “next year in the sun.” Now I’m here in Tidewater VA and have just enough snow to enjoy.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 21, 2013 at 11:03 am Reply

      You are right Sharon, Tidewater does manage to give its residents lots of warm weather, and a touch of snow. We lived there for 10 years and it was a pretty nice place to be!

  8. John Messeder January 20, 2013 at 9:03 pm Reply

    Ah, yes – snow, glorious snow. But that was Maine in the 60s, and this is Gettysburg now and green. Weird.

    John Messeder, JAFPR, MBS Ph: 717.253.0605 On Jan 20, 2013 2:49 PM, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life” wrote:

    > ** > Lisa Smith Molinari posted: “[caption id="attachment_2397" > align="aligncenter" width="600"] January 2013. My back yard in > Florida.[/caption] I love snowy white winters, but ever since the Navy > moved us to Florida, the only flakes we see are floating in milk-filled > cereal bowls. So, “

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 21, 2013 at 11:06 am Reply

      It may be green now, but you know there will be hell to pay when Mother Nature decides it’s time. Gettysburg will be white soon enough!

  9. rossmurray1 January 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm Reply

    Femur? Yikes! It’s snowing here in Quebec but hoping for more… because there can never be too much, right? (Ask me again in March.)

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 21, 2013 at 11:05 am Reply

      HA! That’s the truth — once March rolls around everyone, no matter how nostalgic about snow, is totally OVER IT.

  10. rhechristine January 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm Reply

    oh man, I love it. we didn’t grow in snow, although not far from it. When we moved to the high sierras we had some snow. I loved it for my children. Its such a fun experience. we have experienced building snow men and the first walk in the snow. When we moved to Virginia I was hoping for some more snow…alas, we’ve lived here for a year and not much yet. sigh

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm Reply

      Yes, we lived in VA for 10 years with only occasional snow… those pics of my kids sledding in 2008 show how nutso we got with even a light dusting!

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