Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It SnowDecember 07, 2009 by Victoria Strong
Yes, you read that right. Santa Barbara has snow...well, sort of...
When your child is disabled and/or given a terminal diagnosis, there are certain things, certain ideas you had about being a parent that are especially difficult to let go of. They usually make little sense to someone else in their importance because they were your vision, your idea of what your life with your child would entail. For the most part, these things don't crop up that often anymore. While the loss of those ideas was crushing just after her diagnosis, because Gwendolyn has a terminal disease, we have tried to let go of the fruitless wishes and cherish each second she is in our lives. And when we can, we try to make those visions come true.
One of those "visions" that has been difficult to give up was the idea of taking our daughter to the snow -- sledding, making snowmen together, throwing snowballs, teaching her to snowboard... This is something Bill and I thought would be part of our family life. Bill grew up going to Mammoth Mountain just south of Yosemite in the Sierra Nevadas and Mammoth, the snow, snowboarding, and skiing has been a very big and important part of his life. His Mom has a cute place up there and we used to go all the time. We spent countless long weekends up there with family and friends and as a couple and it became a special place to us: our first Christmas together was in the snow, we got engaged in the snow, and we envisioned spending winter's in the snow with our children. But the high altitude and thin air makes it just too difficult for Gwendolyn to breathe. So Mammoth Mountain and sledding with Gwendolyn was pushed to the "let it go" zone.
But, when we saw that the awesome Santa Barbara Zoo was having their Snow Leopard Festival with snow sledding and snowballs and SNOW, we knew we had to go. We weren't sure of the logistics, but we knew the incredible people at the zoo would help make this experience accessible for us. We started with showing Gwendolyn the snow. She watched the kids throwing snow in the air and their excitement with wide eyes. Then we ventured inside the gate and found a spot in the corner away from the chaos so we could take her out of her stroller to touch the snow. She was interested, unsure, curious. We made a ball with the snow and it was so cold in her little hand, but still interesting. We threw a snowball at Daddy and that was fun. And then, the stars truly aligned!!! We so, so, so wanted to take Gwendolyn sledding, but trying to navigate her equipment through the madness of snowballs and the thought of waiting in the long line with so many people (in sick season) -- well, my heart was beginning to sink. Until -- we spied our friends Shannon and Dave right at the front of the line. Shannon waved us over and I don't know what she told the crowd, but the next thing we knew everyone allowed us to go right up the front with Gwendolyn. There was no time for preparation or even watching other kids do it, so Gwendolyn was hurriedly plopped on Daddy's lap and down the hill they went. And...Gwendolyn LOVED it!!! She smiled, her eyes were bright with excitement, she looked up at Daddy... she looked out at me with an expression that said, "Let's do this every day, that was awesome!" And it was awesome!
Sometimes we think we have let go of those "visions", but to see them come true, to do something as a family that we thought we'd never get to do -- well, it fills our hearts and just plain feels good. Part of me wanted to cry with joy and tell everyone that they just helped make a little dream come true -- but I was relishing Gwendolyn's enthusiasm and storing this memory deep in my heart. So, THANK YOU Santa Barbara Zoo for creating such an amazing event. THANK YOU Shannon and Dave for thoughtfully pushing us to the front and being so excited for us. And THANK YOU to all the strangers in the crowd for sensing that this was important to our little family. You helped make a little dream come true for us!