“Snow,” he said, “is overrated.”
This line, lifted directly from “The Liar,” resonated with me. It is never explicitly described why James’ father believes this is so, though he seems to disapprove of the frivolity of skiing. He associates it with the people he reads about in the society section of his newspaper, which sounds like very much like a stereotypical clickbait news site.
My own father shares this dislike of snow, and like all fathers he has a magnificent story behind it, with which he entertained three sons countless times on various road trips, plane flights, and family dinners. One of my earliest memories is of listening to my father describing his childhood in California, and more specifically, why he was never particularly enthusiastic when winter rolled around and the Amherst forecast called for 8 inches of snow.
For many years my father’s only experience with snow was on television: young people bundled up and laughing, frolicking in the dusty, feathery stuff that passed for snow in the marketing studio. It looked like great fun, though the commercials only covered two of the five senses: sight and sound. Touch was completely up to one’s imagination, and who could possibly have fun in something miserably cold and wet?
In 1960, the United States hosted the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. My grandfather decided to make a trip of it, and so went out and bought a brand new toboggan. My father and his five sisters dressed in cold weather clothing, all excited and laughing. The Olympic Village was too expensive to enter, but they got to look through the fence, and there was snow on the ground!
My father immediately jumped in a pile of the stuff, expecting it to be warm or lukewarm or whatever little boys think snow is supposed to be when all they’ve seen is laughter and feathers being thrown about on TV. To his surprise, it was cold! Wet and cold! His socks were immediately soaked, but he was the oldest and there was a new toboggan that his father expected to be used.
He later described it to me as being very “Calvin and Hobbes-esque.” Being a child who’d never had any first-hand experience with snow, he didn’t have the faintest clue how to steer a toboggan. As Murphy would have it, he pushed off down the hill directly at a large rock. The impact loosened one of the toboggan’s boards, and sent my father flying.
Even years later, when my brothers and I ran screaming into his room yelling about the snow, he was less than enthused. He humored us, however, and took us sledding down the big hill in front of our home, despite his firm belief that snow was “cold, wet, and unsafe at any speed.”