Jessai Flores

New England winters are nothing new to me. For the last 20 years  — or at least the 13 or so I can remember — I’ve watched summer days fade into cold blue nights as leaves turn red and then float to the ground. I remember so distinctly the first snow of second grade. We were playing outside during recess, and then all of a sudden there it was — little clumps of white, falling, falling, falling to the ground.

I remember wearing my pajamas inside out and backwards, putting frozen spoons under my pillow, flushing ice cubes down my toilet and twirling around and around my kitchen praying for snow days. At 7 a.m., I’d run downstairs to watch the morning news — or really to watch the ticker at the bottom of the television screen announcing snow day cancellations. I felt time slow as the screen cycled down the alphabet toward my school district. If you blinked, you might miss it, and you’d have to remain in suspense for a whole additional 45 seconds so that the ticker would loop around once again. One February, we had a snow day every single week. It honestly felt like I’d won the lottery. 

Unfortunately, as most things do, the luster of winter has faded as I have gotten older. In high school, when the snow came, it simply meant I had to wake up 20 minutes earlier to use an ice pick to crack open the doors of my car. Snow days became simply an excuse to catch up on work.

Now that I see my first college winter on the horizon, what is in store for me? As with many things at Yale, my expectations for winter here are informed by copious rewatches of “Gilmore Girls” throughout middle and high school. Will Yale be a winter wonderland of Christmas markets and hot cocoa? Will I be able to smell snow like Lorelai? None of these questions are really rhetorical, and I can tell you the answer is probably no. 

Returning from Thanksgiving break, the energy on campus has shifted in some way. As I put the sweaters I brought from home in the spot where my summer clothes used to be and plugged in my aptly-named SAD Lamp, the reality set in that winter here is probably going to be pretty brutal. People came back to school with a look of grim acceptance on their faces that was almost obscured by the layers of scarves and hats and earmuffs. A lot of what makes this campus what it is are the outdoor spaces we inhabit on a daily basis. Spending time outside with friends on Cross Campus, Old Campus or your residential college courtyard are all quintessential experiences at Yale. There is a reason Yale’s promotional photos are taken during the golden glory of fall foliage as smiling students lounge outside in the sun. What becomes of this place when we are all forced indoors, scurrying from one building to another as quickly as possible to get out of the cold? As the hours of sunlight dwindle and, particularly in the next three weeks, the amount of work piles up, I wonder where we will all go to find warmth — physical, metaphorical and otherwise. 

Maybe I need to look on the bright side, wherever I can find it. I can find joy in the feeling of pink frostbitten cheeks and coziness in the library swaddled in a giant sweater. I can cherish memories of sipping tea with my suitemates at 2 a.m. in our common room. I can watch and laugh as my best friend from California struggles through her first Nor’easter. I want snowball fights on Old Campus and elaborate snow fort constructions. If I can drop my backpack on the ground outside my dorm on the way back from the library and make snow angels with my friends just for the hell of it, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Yes, I’m envisioning an ideal world, and the novelty of winter in college will probably wear off as soon as I have to trudge to class in knee-deep snow and some of it gets in my boot. But, I imagine when February hits, and the sun sets at 4:30 p.m. and even that one tiny bit of natural light in Bass disappears, I’m going to have to find something to take joy in. If reclaiming a bit of childhood wonder makes winter more bearable, who is to stop me? 

In that vein, I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic for what winter has in store. Maybe it can be at least a little bit magical  — aka slightly manageable — if I make it that way. So, if you see me making snow angels on Cross Campus, feel free to join. 

IDONE RHODES