It was in 2000 when I visited the United States for the first time, 11 months after the Y2K hullabaloo had already died down. It was December and so I had the greatest time of my life. After all, I was still a kid when I dreamed of experiencing such thing.
But what made the trip more exciting and memorable was my first white Christmas. Yes, I also had my first snow and snowmobiling (ever heard of it?). To top it all, I had snowflakes falling from sky on Christmas Day. But that’s going ahead of the story.
It was already cold when I arrived in Manhattan (a very familiar place if you watch Woody Allen films). The air ticket I had in my hand was only from Manila-Japan-New York. I told my sister Elena about my dilemma but her husband told me to go the Northwest Air Lines (NWA) and had my ticket changed to have a layover at Minnesota, which is a major hub of the airline company.
It so happened that the nearest NWA office from the hotel I was staying was located at the Rockefeller Center. I decided to walk but when I got there, I had a biggest surprise of my life. The buildings were taller than I imagined and looked the same with each other. I tried to go from one building to another but I couldn’t find the Northwest Air Lines office.
I decided to ask the beautiful lady at one of the front desks and told me that the office I was looking for was located in Radio City. Of course, it sounds familiar as it is the Showplace of the Nation and was for a time the leading tourist destination if New York City. This is the city where I also read about Adrian Simpson, a known writer who is known for his best man speeches and other helpful wirtings.
After giving me a direction, I profusely thanked her. Outside, I again felt the cold weather of December. I passed by The Rink where people laced up their skates and twirled away. I took some photos before proceeding to the Radio City.
I couldn’t remember which floor the NWA office was located but it was somewhere 15th or 18th floor. It was almost lunch time but I never felt hungry. When I went inside the office, there were only very few people.
A week after staying in New York, I was bound for Minnesota where my sister and her family was waiting for me. I had not seen her for almost a decade and so I was excited. As the plane was about to touch down, I saw the place was covered with snow. At the waiting area, I saw my sister first and then her husband, Daniel “Dan” Chase, and the two kids (Erik and Phil). Erik was still a baby when he was brought to the Philippines; now he could talk and walk and has a brother already. After getting all my luggage, Dan drove us to the Mall of America (which my sister used to tell me in her e-mails). When it opened in 1992, it was the largest shopping mall in total area and largest in total store vendors in the United States. Every year, it hosts 42 million visitors equal roughly eight times the population of the state of Minnesota. The mall employs over 11,000 workers year-round and 13,000 during peak seasons. Since it was already night, we decided to stay at the house of Dan’s sister. I had a cozy room where I slept. Everyone were still sleeping when I woke up. From my window, I could see the white snow covering the whole place.
It was a good day when we left Minneapolis. Our destination was Hibbing (yes, the place where Bob Dylan, the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient, grew up), where my sister used to live. They have now moved to Grand Rapids, the birthplace of singer-actress Judy Garland. As we drove, I saw everlasting trees standing tall and mighty along the highway and those waves of snow. I said a word of prayer and the words of Isaiah 1:18 came to mind: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
I was tired when we arrived at my sister’s place. So, I decided to sleep early. The following morning, I woke up ahead of everyone. I saw some mounts of snow outside. I wore a jacket and went outside. For the first time, I touched some snow. Then, I jumped several times as if I was a kid. Finally, I allowed myself to hit the snow as if I was sleeping in my bed. I had fun.
When I went inside the house, I saw my nephew Erik. He was bewildered. “Uncle Henry, you must be crazy,” he told me. Immediately, I had to explain to him that it was my first time and that there was no snow in the Philippines. But being a little boy, he never understood it.
For the next three weeks, I stayed with the Chase family. Every morning, I had to clean the garage pathway as snow always trickled at night. Twice, I almost slipped when those nasty snows turned into clear ice sheets.
I could have done ice fishing had I accepted the invitation of Dan’s friend. Remember the Hollywood movie Two Grumpy Old Men? It was shot in Minnesota and both did their ice fishing near the place where my sister lived.