Photo Essay

White Christmas


One day, in second grade, during a period of silent reading, one child's voice cut through the stillness: "It's snowing!" My usually-controllable classmates ran outside in a frenzy; most of us never had seen snow before. Most of the students, faculty, and staff were outside, enjoying the almost God-sent sight. We were disappointed, however, when the ice crystals failed to stick to the ground. We were more disappointed when, after less than two minutes, the ice crystals stopped falling from the sky. Teachers ushered their long-faced students back into the building, and we tried to pick up where we left off, but how could we focus when something as rare—not to mention mystical—as snow was given to us but taken away so quickly?

I live in a region of South Texas whose record highs during the winter months have climbed into the triple digits and whose average lows rarely fall beneath 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine my surprise, then, when my older brother woke me up not long before the clock would strike midnight, welcoming Christmas Day, 2004. I'll never forget his words. "Sarah, wake up. Get up. It's snowing." Naturally, I thought that he was joking, but his insistence was a force to be reckoned with. I slipped on my tennis shoes, zipped up my jacket, grabbed my camera, and followed him out the front door. And it was snowing. Never in my life had I seen snow (as in white clumps, not the clear crystals that cascaded from the heavens only to vanish into the pavement during my brief brush with ice back in second grade) fall right in front of my face and then actually pile onto a surface. I was dumbstruck. I quickly regained my focus and started snapping in the dark. When I finally was satisfied that I'd captured enough of my first snowy midnight—or maybe I was too tired to continue (it's been such a long time since then for me to remember exactly)—I crawled into bed, dreaming of a white Christmas.

The next morning, I woke up early to see the snow while the sun was shining in my Texas sky rather than on the other side of the world, tucked away beneath the horizon. I slipped on my tennis shoes, zipped up my jacket, grabbed my camera, and walked out the back door. While I was asleep, the snow had stopped falling, but it left a clean blanket of varying thickness: patchy clumps in one place, deep enough to conceal my foot up to the top of my platform tennies in another. At 9:01 AM on December 25, 2004, the temperature was 28 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperature that I have ever seen, in person, on a thermostat. For the first time since 1895, Mission had a white Christmas. It hasn't snowed since.

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