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Jack Knox: Love it or hate it, Victoria gets a taste of winter

Here is the ultimate tragedy for a child: A snow day — on a Friday no less! — that isn’t. It was at 11 a.m.
Everin Ward
Colwood's Everin Ward, 9, on snow: "I love it. It's amazing."

Jack Knox mugshot genericHere is the ultimate tragedy for a child: A snow day — on a Friday no less! — that isn’t.

It was at 11 a.m., around the time that many West Shore drivers were figuring out that maybe they shouldn’t have tried to squeeze one more winter out of their tires, that the Sooke school district announced that schools would, in fact, stay open until the end of the day.

Parents were free to come and get their children if they wanted, but the kids were already inside the classrooms, safe and warm and dry, so there was no point in shoving them into the Dr. Zhivago-meets-Fargo scene unfolding outside.

Oh, how cruel! Had Ol’ Man Winter got off his butt, caught the early ferry, and arrived on Vancouver Island just a couple of hours earlier, the schools could have been closed from the get-go and the kids could have had a long weekend.

Victoria finally got a taste of winter on Friday, God punishing us for smugly posting all those cherry blossom photos last week when everywhere from the Rockies to Rimouski was-40 misery.

Or maybe He was rewarding us. It depends on how you feel about a real Canajun winter.

Vancouver Island is generally split into three camps: those who like snow, those who pretend to like it in the same way they pretend to like the opera (which is to say that they’re trying to impress somebody), and those who fear and hate it with a depth of loathing normally reserved for terrorists, the taxman, or the Toronto Maple Leafs (the latter might reflect a personal bias).

Everin Ward is solidly in the first camp. “I love it, it’s amazing,” the Colwood boy said early Friday afternoon, ankle-deep in heaven. His mother, Robyn Ward, took vacation time from work so that she could collect the nine-year-old from school at lunch, get him home, then get him covered in snow just like she used to do when growing up in Winnipeg.

Having already built a snowman, Everin was hauling out sleds for them to use as soon as they finished shovelling the driveway. (Pro tip from a nine-year-old: Recycling bins are excellent for building snow-fort blocks.)

Now, at the risk of stating the obvious, nine-year-olds don’t (or shouldn’t) drive, which is one of the major determinants when it comes to attitudes toward snow. In a city as prepared for winter as Trump is for Cinco de Mayo, those who gripped the wheel with knuckles as white as the snow on the road might not have shared Everin’s enthusiasm.

Other Canadians belittle us for this, of course. We try to explain that ours is a special type of Teflon-coated snow made slipperier when mixed with the enormous amount of guano deposits by the estimated 6,000 or so geese who no longer migrate but now live in Greater Victoria year-round, just like retirees grounded by the speculation tax, but this draws nothing but a smirk from your cousin Nine-Finger Ned, the one who had that unfortunate frostbite injury back in Broken Dreams, Sask.

Likewise, other Canadians scoff at the way the mere threat of flakes sends us flocking to the grocery store like it’s Meat Day in the Soviet Union. Thursday, wherever snow was forecast, Vancouver Islanders stocked up as though preparing for the End of Days, not the end of the week.

“We were slammed as we braced for Snowmageddon,” said Ralf Mundel, Thrifty Foods’ vice-president of operations. Shoppers emptied shelves of salt, kitty litter and anything else they might need to survive 20 days in the bunker. “I honestly think people still have visions of the Storm of ’96.” (I hereby apologize to anyone still traumatized by the mention of the Blizzard That Must Not Be Named; send your grief-counselling bills to the Times Colonist.)

Still, it does feel nice to feel part of the Great White North now and then.

“Growing up in Manitoba, snow days were a quintessential joy of my childhood,” Robyn Ward said. “As a parent, I want my children to experience that same joy when the opportunity arises.”

It doesn’t arise often. Embrace it. Make a snow angel while you can.

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