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Growing Up, Race & Identity

The Snow Queen

There are two things to know about the day I was born. One is that on that day it was the coldest, heaviest snow fall that Britain had seen for decades; it would remain the coldest on record until this year. Two is that it should not have been the day I was born at all; I was supposed to arrive in a younger month. But I was incredibly late, a behavioural trait that has continued to define me in the years since. The anticipated date of my arrival was a 20s in February, but I was born at an altogether more magical time 3/3, at 3:33pm. 3 has long been a number associated with magic; power; force: the rule of 3, the law of 3, the power of the triad. I could have been the 20-something-th of February, born on a mild morning, but I held off, instead arriving dually with a blizzard on the 3rd of the 3rd.

Today is my birthday. The current climate marks the first year of my life when the cold temperature and constant snowfall has matched the bitter North Wind I arrived with. In that year of my birth, it was so cold that my Dad – at that time, still a mere man – got stuck in another country and was unable to attend. He attempted to drive down to greet me but was thwarted by the ice, sleet, the hazardous driving conditions. In later life, those in the know would point this moment out to me as the time the cracks in our broken lives began; but that’s still not something I fully understand, and anyway, it’s a story for another time and not the one I’m telling now.

People have often told me I am “sunny”. It’s not without reason I suppose; I am warm to my friends, I try to shed light and help others to grow. And in this cold country of my birth, I’m well aware that people like to associate with warmer climes. I remind people of the tropical and exotic, of places we might readily associate with the sun. Sometimes I think of my ancestors, out there in the northern plains of Africa; the dusty plains of Southern Asia; the wide expanse of Native America; the warm islands of the Indian Ocean. How absurd it would have seemed to them to imagine snow at all, much less a direct descendant born amid a blizzard. (Climate change and immigration; the dual factors of my existence.) Even one generation ago we were deep into sun-drenched territory: my own two parents were born in Uganda and Mumbai. My heritage truly does lie where the sun shines.

But there is something that seperates me from all the relatives who came before I did; child of the snow. I was born into this world under a blanket of cold and ice and I have been waiting for the cruel bitterness to subside ever since. Home was a vast, unforgiving wilderness; and for the first 18 years of my life my only concern was surviving it. That impermeable snow always lingering. By the time I graduated university I had adapted as such; with a reputation for being cold and an ability to cut myself off completely, to survive in the face of a blank expanse. Romantic interests felt the full shiver of my icy demeanour, but it was always there; the snow queen.

People love the snow; are attracted by it’s seemingly pure state, it’s newness and cleanness, unending beauty and peace. You see the snow from afar and you want to partake in it’s loveliness. To experience the snow up close is another story. The snow is deceptive and cruel; hiding deadly, invisible sheets of ice; rendering the world you know an illusion; smiting you with invisible winds that rip through your bones. You go out to greet the snow in all it’s splendour and the snow comes for you. Never as nice as you imagined. A solitude broken. Better to have left it alone.

Leave the snow to it’s own devices and it’s a force like no other. Like a silent, deadly version of it’s alter ego: water. A tsunami will crash upon you, encroaching, destructive and deadly; a storm will rain down around you, surrounding you, dangerous and calamitous. But snow falls softly. You wake up in the morning and it’s a surprise. The world has become in a barren, confusing landscape – even a familiar street looks completely different under thick snow – and with the ice sneaking into your veins, a cold you had forgotten. Perhaps you thought you had understood the situation; you didn’t, the snow has decided otherwise. Or maybe you thought you knew how you were getting to work today; no, the snow had other plans. You want to meet your child but the snow has fallen. And so you adapt to the snow.

When the snow envelopes the world and creates such a harsh landscape, the best you can do is survive. But thoughts of anything else – of growing and blooming and thriving – seem impossible amid such unforgiving terrain. Eskimos tell us that one never truly lives with the snow; the focus is to survive, to adapt and to withstand. And for years I felt this way too. In the wilderness I grew up in I merely existed alongside the impermeable frost. Playing a waiting game with the snow; who will disappear first? This birthday the Arctic winds reign upon us again, showing their might, and for me too, this birthday is a remarkable one in many ways. Not once did I think I would make it this far. I was so focused on surviving that I failed to imagine what I might do should the snow actually thaw. Because who knew if it actually would? But this year and this age brings a change. Spring is in sight.

Because snow does thaw. The blizzards will pass. I look to the skies and ask that the snow that arrived when I did will finally blow over; ask that this blizzard can bookend the first chapter of my life, instead of continuing to underpin it. The skies agree. Rain is already beginning to fall, the snow is morphing into something more manageable. This ice, too, shall melt. And the sunflowers are mere husks now, seemingly dried up and dead in their pot. But the wise winds will tell you that hope is not lost. Because with the melted ice, and the warmth of the new sun, and just a little bit more time, they will grow.


This post is tangentially linked to my previous post “Sunflowers” which alongside this is one of the best I’ve written. As it’s my birthday, I have a small favour to ask. If you enjoy my work, please share it – sharing is caring and donating is loving! Hopefully by my birthday writing won’t just be a spare time thing. Thank you so much for being here.dead sunflower, sunflower husk in winter, sunflower in the snow

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7 Comments

  • Reply Maryam Sofia

    Laila, this is so damn beautifully written! And I’m wishing you the happiest of birthdays. Lots of love. xo

    March 3, 2018 at 5:47 pm
  • Reply Laura

    i always love your writing and this is beautiful, definitely deserves to be considered the best thing you’ve written (by yourself or anyone)! hope you’re having the most wonderful birthday, lovely! xxx

    March 3, 2018 at 6:55 pm
  • Reply Jane

    This was such a beautiful read Laila. Happy birthday, hoping you have your best year yet <3

    March 4, 2018 at 10:39 am
  • Reply Les Petits Pas de Juls

    Happy B., beautiful! Enjoy it all and may it be full of joy, snow and unexpected happy beginnings! Cheers!

    March 4, 2018 at 1:34 pm
  • Reply Denise

    Happy belated birthday, Laila, I hope you have a great “new astrological year” ahead and a nice week ad month! I loved the post and immigration is something that resonates with my family too! And you are so right – snow is something so powerful…I even fell down on the street last week, but thankfully nothing bad happened – but it could! Nevertheless, I am not a friend of sun, although people also tell me “you are solari” 🙂 Maybe, like you said, it lies in the family. Who knows! Loved your pictures!
    DenisesPlanet.com

    March 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm
  • Reply Audrey

    Yay you made it to another year; that’s definitely an accomplishment! What a beautiful and poetic story <3 I think it really shows how life is a journey, that we might not be where we expected to be (or maybe we are), but that everything that brought us to this point made us who we are, and we will continue to become ourselves with every new experience, wherever they take us -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    March 8, 2018 at 3:59 am
  • Reply Natasha

    Laila you really are so talented with your words and these photos are just gorgeous too. I hope you had the most wonderful birthday as you truly deserve it and thank you for always sharing your wonderful words with us! – Tasha

    March 21, 2018 at 7:47 pm
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