Thursday, January 7
It started out innocently enough. Just a light snowfall on a Thursday morning in Madrid.
Snow is not common in Madrid, but it does happen every now and then. However, it only sticks for a day or two at most.
I’d seen videos of the snow in Madrid before, one from two years ago. It was more of a slush than a snowfall. Such was the snow this Thursday morning as I walked to a coffee shop.
“It’s been awhile since it’s snowed, hasn’t it?” I asked the barista as he served me my coffee.
“They say that the snow we’re going to get is going to turn the city white,” he said. “The last time something like that happened was in 2009.”
I looked outside. The snowflakes were getting fatter. They were the kind that are pretty to look at, but not big enough to make a snowman. Too wet and fluffy.
I found it amusing how Madrid locals walked around carrying umbrellas as if it were raining. It was well below freezing, and people were still eating in the terraces. Besides the increased white glaze of slushy snow covering the trees and streets, it was business as usual.
“This won’t stick around for too many days,” I thought. “Not good enough for a snowman.”
And then, I saw this.
It was only the beginning.
Friday, January 8
The snow was starting to stick.
Still not enough for a big snowman. I continued to see cute little versions sitting on stacked tables and chairs that were chained to the terraces.
I walked to one of my favorite spots in the city. While I was walking, I was starting to get cold again. My feet were starting to feel that distantly familiar feeling of numbness, the kind you get before frostbite. I kept trying to move my toes in my boots just to remind myself that they were still there.
When I got to the cafe, I went to the bathroom. My once straight hair was now wavy and white from all the snow that weighed it down. My mascara was all over my face; it looked like I had been crying. Once I was in the heat of the cafe, I was slightly dripping.
No wonder the clerk looked at me funny.
Whatever. I was the one who got to enjoy a walk in the snow.
That night, at midnight, I was trying to sleep, as I had to teach the following morning. But outside my room, people were outside screaming and shouting for an hour. What were they so excited about? It was just a little snow. And shouldn’t they be inside? Curfew had been in effect for well over an hour.
Saturday, January 9
The next morning, I was just focused on teaching well. Once I was done, I decided to go outside for a walk.
And then I got it.
That’s why they were screaming last night.
Snow covered everything. And it wasn’t the fluffy wet snow. This was heavy duty, snowball-packing snow. And it covered everything in sight: trees, cars, terraces. Nothing was open. It was like New Year’s or Christmas Eve. How could anything be open when your car was buried under a foot of snow?
Apparently people had actually been stuck in their cars for hours at a time until they could get rescued. One of my students had been driving during all of this, and thought about abandoning their car if there was no way out. Fortunately, they were able to get home that night, though I can’t say the same for everyone else.
But there was something so magical about the snow. Especially after watching what happened at the US Capitol a few nights ago. To go from complete shock and heartbreak, to a childlike giddiness in a matter of a few days, was a bit bizarre to say the least. But I was happy to have a relief from what I’d been seeing on the news.
People in Madrid generally enjoy going outside to walk around. But I’d never seen so many people walking around in the snow. Some kids were playing in it. Some were having snowball fights. Some were building the biggest snowmen I’d ever seen in my life. And many adults, myself included, were just walking around with a smile on their faces, astonished at what the city had turned into overnight; feeling like, after covid essentially cancelled a lot of Christmas plans, we’d finally gotten our white Christmas.
At least that’s what the vibes felt like, since I couldn’t see their faces as everyone was wearing masks.
But still. It felt magical.
Sunday, January 10 and beyond
Students had classes online for a week and a half. So many cars were stuck. And the snow had turned to ice. My school’s road was covered in snow, while the main roads were cleared. It took days to get everything back to normal.
And now it’s the first of February, and it’s been in the 50s and 60s for the past several days.
Such is life. And having a feeling of spring also feels magical after gray skies and freezing weather.
And that was my experience in Snowstorm Filomena in Madrid. A piece of joy and childhood happiness during one of the darkest times of the year — literally and figurately. It just goes to show that whenever the darkness is there, and whenever things feel like they’ll never end, that there are still beautiful things in this world. And the gray skies will fade away; and you will know that the blue skies had never left at all.