The First Snowfall Effect


A friend of mine recently had a baby. When I asked her if it really hurt that much, she assured me that No, it wasn’t that bad.

Yes it was, mumbled her husband. She just forgot.

I’ve been in an obstetric ward. I’ve heard the cursing and blood curdling screams. It sure seems that bad. So, what is this mysterious selective amnesia?

It seems Canadians experience the same phenomenon every year with regard to winter. It wasn’t so long ago that everyone was moaning about the latest dump of snow, dissing it with sour faces as they scraped it off their cars and smashed it off their boots. Facebook statuses were overrun with complaints and curses. They referred to it unaffectionately as “shit” or “stuff.” Even in autumn, people were grumbling about the upcoming doom and couldn’t enjoy the beautiful leaves because the recent drop in temperature was too reminiscent of the W-word.

But then, magically, the first snow hits and suddenly it’s a “winter wonderland.” People are taking pictures from their kitchen windows, as if they’ve never seen the stuff in their lives. Some take video of the first flakes and post it on their facebook as if they’ve discovered a true rarity. Strangers exchange knowing glances on the street. Children giggle and twirl around. Dogs buck like broncos, licking it or snapping out of the sky.

Going out during the first snowfall is like entering a party halfway through the evening. Everyone is under the influence, which provides automatic solidarity. Eyes lock, smiles are abundant, discussion effortless. This morning was no exception. Suddenly strangers were greeting me, people were winking and grinning on the street. One guy told me the best thing about winter is how easy it is to pick up his dog’s feces. He seemed genuinely pleased that we have begun another painstaking cycle that will last the next six months.

I’m convinced that the first snow releases a flurry (haha) of powerful neurotransmitters designed to charge up positive emotions and have us completely forget the suffering and tribulation we experienced only a few months prior.

While I am aware of the First Snowfall Effect, this does not make me immune. I too felt a surge of satisfaction as my boots sunk into the pristine layer of delicate flakes. It is truly a sacred moment. Suddenly all the things I love about winter surfaced to my conscious mind: the silenced city, the cleansing of a fresh snowfall, the androgenized citizens, the excuse to stay inside and work under a heavy duvet. Grogs. Multiple pots of tea. Toques to hide my unmanageable hair. Chili and soup galore. Slippers and thick socks. Cuddling. And the list stretched on.

To prove the seriousness of my affliction, here is my photo of the first snowfall in Montreal, 2011.

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  1. I think I may have the same ailment.

  2. Amanda Capper (ajcap)25 November 2011 at 11:06

    Just read your story on EDF and you are now my favourite writer. This fame may only last for a couple of days so bask while the basking is good.

    You're funny, female, Canadian and a dog-lover. We may have been separated at birth.

    I've been putting off blogging because I've only had two stories actually published (both at EDF) so I'm feeling unworthy...but you're also proving to be inspirational so I may get to it very soon.

    But not until I come up with a clever title...

  3. A couple of weeks ago I looked out my window in the buish dawn and was totally surprised by the covering of white over everything. And despite having had that experience abour fifty times now,(I spent a few winters in S.California) it still awoke in me instant wonder, that was the word that best described my feeling and it was joyous. There will be moments of hatred but more it will be wondrous. So I get it. MiM

  4. I love and appreciate your stories. I am happy to have found your blog and will continue to check in for more stories. Your story on EDF was fantastic and hilarious. Your writing is captivating, exciting and something to look forward to in my day. Thank you.

  5. Amanda- Thank you for your kind words. Really. And I must insist that you get on that blog right away!

  6. R. Simpson - What flattery! Thank you for reading and for your enthusiasm.