January 18, 1977

Alright!  For the past several months, I’ve been hearing all you people to the north of me complain about your snow.  Well, I just want you to know that just because I’m here in Florida where it’s been a steady 90+ degrees these past few weeks doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to your plight.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I will share with you the story of the first time I ever saw (and fell in love with) snow.

I was a sheltered kid.  My grandparents raised me.  My grandma didn’t drive, and my grandfather suffered from a deep depression after he retired so he slept most of the time.  As such, I didn’t get to go anywhere very often.  Furthermore, I never even left the state of Florida until I was thirteen years old!

However, shortly after I turned seven, I vividly remember being woken up in what seemed like the middle of the night.  My granddaddy shook me awake and told me to put on my pajama bottoms, my slippers, and my robe so I could go outside and see a surprise.  While I did indeed love surprises, I also loved my sleep, and I didn’t want to get out of bed!  I whined a bit while Grandma found my clothes, then we went outside in the dark to find Granddaddy standing by the car with his camera.

Surprise!  It had snowed here in Central Florida!  It was so exciting, I was literally speechless.  I remember thinking – This is a lot colder than I ever imagined it would be.  I wanted to play in it right then, but that’s when they burst my bubble and told me that it was still nighttime and I’d have to go back to bed.  They only woke me in case it melted before I woke up.

I was crushed.  I wanted so badly to build a snowman and make snow angels and throw snowballs.  (I had no idea that we didn’t have nearly enough snow for all that fun.)  When I got back to bed, I couldn’t sleep.  I was certain that if I fell asleep, all that beautiful, white goodness would be gone when I woke.

Surprise!  When I woke up, it was still there!  We took more pictures by the car, and Grandma didn’t even wear shoes!  (She loved the cold just like I do now…  However at the time, I was freezing and I have no idea why she didn’t make me put on a coat!)  Even my dog, Duchess, got to join in the fun.  I figured I could stay home and play in it, but my grandparents made me go to school.  (Nope, we don’t get snow days here in Florida, even on the rare occasions we do get snow.)

However, when I got to school, my disappointment soon faded when I learned that we were immediately taking an unplanned fieldtrip to the nearest overpass.  We took the kindergarteners’ blue and red vinyl nap mats, and we parked at the bottom.  Then we all climbed up the side of the overpass, and we slid down the snowy cement on the mats.  (For those of you wondering why, we don’t have hills here in Florida, either.)  We “sledded” down the side of that overpass for hours!

It was lunchtime before we had to go back to school, and by then, the snow started to melt.  By the time school let out, when I got outside, there was no evidence at all that it had been a day unlike any other here in the Sunshine State.  I was sad that we didn’t have any more snow, but it had been a great day.

So imagine my surprise when I got home and Granddaddy had indeed built me a snowman with the snow he could scrape off the car.  He only had enough for the body, and he had to pick an orange off one of our trees for the head.  He used the lid to my favorite clown cup for the hat, and his own real pipe (that he didn’t smoke, but was a gift from someone in the Japanese government when he was there for the reconstruction).  Sure, it was small, but sure enough, I had my own personal Frosty the Snowman there to greet me when I got home!  And after I saw him, Grandma recycled his body and mixed him with sugar to make me a homemade snow cone served in a cup with no actual cone.  (As a kid, I thought it was so delicious… As an adult, I think it was SO gross that she fed me snow that had been scraped off a dirty car!  Ewww!)

But all in all, I think waking me up in the middle of the night so I didn’t miss the snow was one of the coolest things my grandparents ever did for me.  And that was indeed one of the best and most memorable days of my childhood.

(As an addendum, I’ve seen snow here in Central Florida three other times that I can think of since then, however, each of those times, it melted as soon as it touched the ground.  I’ve never again seen it stick like that around here.  So perhaps now you can appreciate why when I moved to New York for a few years, I absolutely loved the snow and still do.)

Let’s talk:  Have you ever sledded down the side of an overpass on a nap mat?  Did your parents ever wake you up in the middle of the night to see something?  Do you remember the first time you saw snow?  Would you ever ingest anything that was scraped off a car and could not first be washed?

A White Christmas – Florida Style

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I want to talk about snow.  Here in Florida, we don’t often get snow.  In fact, I’ve only seen it snow here four times that I can remember, and only once was it enough to actually stick to the ground.  Even then, it barely covered the blades of grass.  It’s not uncommon here to meet people who’ve never even seen snow.

So, when Florida kids are in school and have to create snow scenes for art class, we truly only have our imaginations to work from.  When I was little, I always wanted to see snow.  Now that I have seen it and even lived in it, I still love it!  In fact, I love everything about snow except driving in it.  But I digress.  When I was in kindergarten, I was dying to play in those white, fluffy flakes and build a snowman, build a snow fort, and throw snowballs.

That’s why my favorite art project when I was small was when we got to make snow scenes out of Tide soap powder.  My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Cook, mixed each of us a cup of “snow paint” by using Tide powder and some water.  Even today, when I smell Tide, I think of those “snow days.”  We got to use our fingers to paint the snowdrifts and snowman, then we dipped in Q-tips to make the falling snowflakes.  As you can see, my love for snow drove me to create a blizzard!  As we worked, we drew in the house, the hat and other such necessary items.

Time to talk:  Snow: Do you love or hate it?  Does it snow where you live?  Have you ever made soap into art?  Do you still have any art projects from when you were little?

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding (And I Don’t Mean the Song by Billy Idol)

Well, we’re drawing a close to the month as well as to our truth-is-stranger-than-fiction series.  I hope you’ve found my anecdotes humorous and entertaining.  This week, I’ve been sharing true stories of weddings that were just unbelievable.

My sister Michelle and I were contracted to shoot the wedding of a professional baseball player and his fiancé.  Because of the groom’s public persona as well as the nature of the wedding-gone-wrong, I’ll simply refer to the couple as Alex W. and Kristin Z.

More than anything, Kristin wanted her wedding photos at a certain park.  However on the day of her wedding, the park was closed to the public because the TV show Bridezillas was being filmed there.  (Little did the producer know that we had the real Bridezilla!)  That very same day, here in Central Florida, it snowed!  (Yes, really!)  We don’t get snow here very often at all (maybe once a decade), but when we do, as you might imagine, people tend to freak out and don’t know how to drive.

So, Michelle and I went to the church to photograph the groom and groomsmen.  But they weren’t ready on time, and it took them nearly another hour before they were dressed.  After we got the men out of the way, we had to drive to the hotel to photograph the bride and bridesmaids nearly 30 minutes away.  However, because of the snow and the bad drivers, it took us nearly an hour to get there.

By then, we were late, but it didn’t matter because the bride wasn’t ready anyway.  The hairdresser had spent so much time on the bridesmaids and flower girls and had saved the bride for last, so we couldn’t even take any photos of the bride alone while the girls finished getting ready.  Worse yet, when the hairdresser realized she was running long, she threw the bride’s hair up in what can only be described as a cotton candy machine disaster.  The bride, who was not otherwise unattractive, looked hideous.

After all that, we got only a couple of photos of the bride before we all had to rush back to the church where the ceremony started almost two hours late.  Afterwards, we attempted to do family shots, but half of the families were outside smoking and couldn’t be bothered to come in when we called them.  Then we went to make up some of the missing bridal party photos by taking them all outside and doing some fun photos at the church.

Kristin was very unhappy because it was snowing outside, and her girls were freezing in their strapless dresses.  She was also displeased because the outside of the church was not aesthetically pleasing, and she just wanted her photos in the park.

After we left the church, we all made our way to the reception which was across the street from the hotel.  But the same bad drivers made it take much too long for the drive.  On the way, the car containing the groomsmen got a flat tire and had to stop, which of course postponed the start of the reception.  By the time the whole bridal party was there, the guests were already leaving because the reception venue didn’t have heat, and it was freezing inside.

Worse yet, the caterers ran out of food, and guests were grumbling.  Loudly.  The deejay had to change his timeline drastically because everyone kept leaving, and the bride had to chase down elderly guests who were stealing the centerpieces that were rented.  When we took the photos of the groom removing the garter, there was a pantyliner stuck to the bottom of the bride’s shoe!  To add to the disaster, the elevator in the venue broke, and elderly guests had to walk down snow covered cement steps outside in the cold.

We had a photo backdrop station set up where we attempted to get Alex and Kristin for some romantic photos, but because of the chaos, they didn’t make it over until after they did all their dancing.  Then she was unhappy because by then, she was sweaty, and her hair looked even worse.

We felt bad that this poor bride had a rough time of her dream day, but what happened after the honeymoon was incredible.  She attempted to sue us because she claimed her photos were bad!  The fact was, the photos were very good, but they very accurately depicted a less-than-desirable wedding day.  She associated her bad memories with the photography (as if us capturing those moments actually made them happen that way).  Of course the lawyer that first agreed to represent her took one look at the photos and told her she had no case.  (Besides the nasty emails we received from her during this process, she blabbed everything to her deejay who also happened to be a friend of ours.)  So, she then wrote us a letter and said we no longer had to worry about hearing from her and that she’d be praying for our souls because we were certainly demons who were destined to burn in hell!  (Yes, really!)

The really funny thing was, about three months later, we got a call to do a maternity session.  During the session, the mama-to-be told us that Kristin Z. referred her to us after we took her “amazing wedding photos.”

Have you ever been to a wedding that went wrong?  If you read about this in a book would you find it believable, or would it seem more like a comedy of errors?

 (NONE of the photos below are from the wedding described above.  However, I was the photographer for each of these shots.)

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(*Please note that 99% of the weddings we shoot are wonderful, and we enjoy them very much.  But the rare, bizarre ones like this do tend to stick out like a sore thumb.)