Roccaraso: A Snow Memoir

Snow.  Well, that was a word that didn’t often enter the conversation when I was growing up in Italy.  In the south, Portici, Naples, you don’t get that kind of weather; sure, cold, rain, but the white stuff belongs only in American Roccaraso, Mara e famigliaChristmas cards.  Okay, to be fair, both my parents were familiar with snow.  My mother grew up in Modena and snow was certainly an inconvenient part of her winters (plus the fog, she used to say, a fog so darn thick you could slice it with a knife).  And my father was born and raised in a small village in the mountains of Molise, Colli al Volturno, so snow storms were expected and arduously dealt with.  But we Di Sandro kids had never been in  proximity of the white stuff, for us a somewhat incomprehensible aspect of a winter we’d never have.  It was a January day of nineteen something something, and we had taken a rare trip to Colli for the weekend (which we never did because it was too bloody cold for our taste), and my father decided that we should drive the forty kilometers or so to Roccaraso, a quaint little town in Abruzzo, at the foot of the mountains.  We had been there many times – it is a pretty-famous resort – but always in the summer.  In those days, weather reports Roccaraso, Mara e famigliawere not nearly as detailed and wide-spread as they are now, so when we woke up on that Sunday and got in the car, it was cold and a bit windy, but nothing more.  When we arrived in Roccaraso we were stunned to find…snow!  Snow, people, SNOW! A thick layer of the sparkling white stuff everywhere, the streets and sidewalks slippery under my pretty black patent-leather MaryJanes, my toes numbing fast under those argyle knee-highs that were quite appropriate for Neapolitan winters, but not for the ‘real’ ones…Oh, the joy, the exhilaration, the wonder, the emotion…My first snow, and it was real, not in a story book, not in a postcard, but under my gloved fingers, solid, glass-like, sparkly, so unbearably beautiful…And the fountain! Look at the fairytale image of the squirting water, frozen in mid-flight, shimmering explosion of icicles and lights.  Andiamo su,babbo, I was begging my father, pointing to the ski station right behind us (see photos), let’s get on the skilift, up on the mountains, please please please…Oh the dream about to come true, the immense expanse of the hills under the pure white blanket, flying down on a sled…Ma no, my father said quickly, we’re not prepared, your bare legs, no snow boots, your thin coats…Per carità, my mother added, horrified, let’s get out of here, I have heels, I’ll break my pictureleg…Torneremo, my father promised, we’ll come back, we’ll wear heavier clothing, the right shoes, woolen scarves…But we never did, not in the winter.  My first taste of snow, a child’s dream, romantic, unforgettable, forever lost in the elusiveness of time.  And here I am now, in my New York, shoveling snow from the front steps, unburying my Toyota, which should surely be in the garage, but so much junk in there already…Now that snow is just a major nuisance, well, I’d like a bit of that childish dream, the miracle from the sky that softens reality, creates a magic kingdom.  But one must grow up.


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