I may be a Southerner, but I still can say that I’ve lived through and experienced snow. And I can also now officially say that I’ve experienced a snow day. The two facts, however, are entirely separate.

Almost exactly a year ago, I woke up on my first morning in my dorm room to see a snow dusted courtyard just a few floors down. And the sheer excitement I experienced on my first full day in England was incredible. Never mind the incredible fear I was also experiencing about being alone in a foreign country. I got to go outside into a snowy place that I would call home for the next six months. It was perfect.

People who have lived in cold places where it snows regularly will tell you that snow is a pain. It’s cold, and wet, and when cars drive through it or people walk through it then dirt gets mixed in with the snow and turns it to a gross brown slush. And then maybe it will melt a little, and refreeze into ice, and another snow will fall on top of it, and it will start over again. I had heard it said that nothing is quite as beautiful as the first snow of a season. I certainly understand that. Nothing compares to the beautifully smooth, glittery white landscape after a good snow. However, once it is tainted by footsteps and cars, or when it begins to melt into the dirt (or is melted with sand and salt), it is never quite as beautiful.

A little snow is certainly the best way to go. I’ve trudged through six inches deep of snow, and I don’t want to do it again. An inch of it, however, I can handle. An inch is just enough to cover the grass and turn everything into a winter wonderland. It’s enough snow to grab a handful and throw at a friend, although not quite enough to make a good snowman. However, even an inch of snow in a climate that is completely unused to it and unprepared is a very bad thing.

When you live on the Gulf Coast, you dream of white Christmases and snow days, never expecting to see one. I once had a day off of school as a little girl because temperatures were going to reach near freezing (not freezing, and no snow was forecasted), and the school was afraid the children didn’t own warm enough jackets. It was the funniest excuse for a “snow day” I have ever heard.

But that’s the truth of the South. We are unprepared for the cold. My brother jokes that when it snows in Alabama, the entire state shuts down while it tries to track down their three snow plows. But he probably isn’t far from the truth. A few weeks ago, the temperatures hovered around freezing. We didn’t dip too far below, we certainly didn’t reach single digits, let alone negative temperatures! But then it rained, as the South often does. And I watched as slowly the rain drops began turning into tiny balls of ice, and the roads wet with rain began to freeze over. No one was prepared to salt the roads, no one owned snow tires or had ever driven in conditions like that. But the temperature was hardly enough to make it snow. I never saw snowflakes. It was ice that fell and covered the ground, and in the fluctuating temperature the ice melted and refroze, melted and refroze, creating smooth, slick surfaces all over the city. Schools were cancelled, roads were closed, and “snowball” fights ensued. And so, without any snow in sight, I experienced my first real snow day.

Am I complaining? Absolutely not! I reveled in the awe and beauty of our campus covered in ice. I never would have dreamed that I would see such a sight. There were icicles dangling from palm trees! Who would have imagined?! And of course in true British fashion, it gave me a good excuse to drink even more tea than usual. So this Southerner experienced the best of both worlds: the awe and excitement of a Southerner raised in a warm climate, and the experience of a Northerner who had seen it all before. I knew where to step and what to avoid. I actually owned sweaters and scarves and a warm enough coat (and I knew better than to call it “snow). But I loved it all the same. I watched the ice accumulate while I sat safe and warm inside, yet I still ventured outside to throw a few fistfuls of ice at my friends and to explore the pristinely white gold course. And if this starts happening once a year, I certainly wouldn’t complain. Although I hope Alabama figures out how to handle ice!