When we had made our decision to move to the Netherlands, we developed a game plan on how to best acclimate our almost four year old to the world changing news: He would soon be leaving the land of his birth, his American family and friends, and the sunny central coast of California, home to year round locally grown organic produce and 365 day access to mild weather beaches. He would be moving to his father’s homeland, land of bitter cold and rain, tulips, bicycles, cafes filled with brooding philosophers, tolerance and . . . snow?
On the keen advice of Alice Tropper, his beloved Santa Barbara pre-school teacher, we spoke to him regularly about our move to Holland and what life would be like in the fatherland. We asked the entire Dutch side of the family still living in the Netherlands to send pictures so he could get to know their names and faces. We increased our Skyping sessions abroad and we shared regular stories and photos of Holland. One of the pictures the family sent was of his 13 year old cousin Victor playing in the snow.
Suddenly, Ezra’s interest in Holland grew exponentially. When people asked him about Holland, his pat answer became “I’m going to build an igloo in Holland.” I’m not sure where this came from. We weren’t moving to Alaska to live with the Inuits, we were moving to rainy Holland. Yet, the photo of Victor in a good 5 inches of snow suggested that the freezing cold rain did on occasion turn to snow. Snow that stayed on the ground. I ran with it. I incorporated stories of us playing in the snow, having snowball fights, building snowmen, making snow angels. Arie Jan shook his head. It doesn’t really snow in Holland. I opened up the photo of Victor to back up my stories and pointed to the lush whiteness in the middle of Den Haag. I promised snow.
He had been to the snow only once before, ironically with two other Dutch- American couples and their half-Dutch, half-American offspring. The nine of us spent four days in Mammoth Lakes over Christmas 2009. It had been dumping the week before we arrived and the world of white outside the car window suggested that all those Christmas story books about Santa coming to snow covered houses in the middle of pine forests are true.
We took the gondola from the base of the mountain to the upper village and out of the glass box in the sky we saw a winter wonderland unfolding beneath us. Sixty foot pines stretched into the air, their branches heavily weighed down with snow. Each house and condo building had the requisite 4 inches of snow covering the roofs, lining the balconies, windswept into the corners of the wooden stairs.
The children jumped in the snow, fascinated by the world of white. Ezra was the youngest and not yet ready for skiing, but would be happy to let you pull him and his little friends Jan and Sky around in the sled for four days straight. Jan, a natural athlete just 6 months older than Ezra was already up on skis. Sky was six at the time, and loved barbies and princesses. She also enjoyed making snowmen. Ezra enjoyed knocking them down. This compromised their relationship for a bit, but they got back on track when it was time for hot chocolate and other indoor activities where Ezra was less prone to search and destroy. Ezra loved the snow.
Thus, when we arrived in Holland on the cold damp of New Year’s eve, Ezra was expecting snow. It certainly felt cold enough to snow. Where is the snow? This question came again and again over the last 7 weeks. “When will it snow mommy?” I had, after all, promised snow. We regularly watched the news forecast, and although the little snowflake appeared over other countries in Europe, we had yet to see it placed over Holland. Until this morning.
I was getting Ezra into the shower when Arie Jan casually mentioned that it was snowing outside.
“What? Snow?” I said excitedly.
I ran to the kitchen window to look outside, Arie Jan’s voice trailing behind me;
“Barely snowing, just a little” he said. There it was, light, tiny flakes drifting downward, falling onto the tiny white blossoms of the winter garden. An outside table had a thin prickling of snow on it’s surface, but the snow was clearly wet. I knew I had to get Ezra out here to see this before it stopped. How do I get Ezra out of the shower? He loves the shower. Then it came to me. I simply had to play one of his favorite games; Emmet.
Cousin Emmet, who is 7 months older than Ezra, is the love of Ezra’s young life and his greatest regret about leaving California. Thus, when we play Emmet, I get to do things like make farting noises and say things like “I’m older than you and I can run faster than you,” or “I want that toy. Why don’t you play with this one?” It’s an opportunity for me to let my inner almost 5 year old out, while also demonstrating ways to share and negotiate. I also try to imitate Emmet’s almost 5 going on 10 vocabulary and ability to cram 30 words into one sentence. It’s a bit tiring. Even when you’re just pretending to be Emmet. I have no idea how he keeps it up 24-7.
So, by the time Ezra was dressed and ready to run to the kitchen window, I was almost certain that the snow had stopped. That I would once again have an unfulfilled promise suspended in a raindrop. Yet there it was! The tiny flakes floating, darting, blowing through the sky. Ezra pulled on the door and we both went outside. We reached our hands upward, trying to catch the baby snowflakes, which melted upon contact with Ezra’s hot little hands. Within a few minutes our hands cooled in the frosty air and one or two snowflakes stuck just long enough to see their whiteness. Ezra jumped up and down in a happy dance, running in circles trying to catch more snowflakes.
“It’s snowing Emmet! It’s snowing!” Ezra called out. I suppose this is the period of life where glee can be a daily experience. We lasted another 5 minutes before heading back indoors. By the time we bicycled to church, the little flakes had diminished and the dusting of snow had melted back into the soggy Dutch landscape.
There will be no snowmen today. But it did snow. And we danced in it.