The Day The Polar Bear Learned About Snow


There is an old joke that goes something like this: One morning a polar bear cub is awakened by his parents so early in the day that the sky is still dark.

“Get up, get up,” say the parents. “Today you learn to swim.”

So the polar bear cub spends his day going in and out of the frigid water, in and out until finally the sky is dark again and he comes back home.

“Mom,” he says, “can I ask you a question?”

“Of course,” she answers.

“Am I a polar bear?”

“Of course you are,” she replies.

“Okay,” he says.

The next morning the polar bear cub is awakened by his parents so early in the day that the snowy owl is still hooting in its tree.

“Get up, get up,” say the parents. “Today you learn to fish.”

So the polar bear cub spends his day going in and out of the frigid water, waiting on the cold ice until a fish swims by and diving into the bitter depths when he sees one, until finally the owl starts to hoot again and he goes home.

“Mom,” he says, “can I ask you a question?”

“Of course,” she answers.

“Am I a polar bear?”

“Of course you are,” she replies.

“Okay,” he says.

It hardly seems as if he has put his head down to rest before the polar bear cub is again awakened by his parents.

“Get up, get up,” say the parents. “Today you learn to hunt.”

So the polar bear cub spends his day stalking and running over the ice, waiting for walruses in the cold and occasionally diving down into the blue depths to hide and surprise his prey. When he feels as if all he has left in him is the energy to get home he finally drags himself back to where his parents are waiting.

“Mom,” he says, “can I ask you a question?”

“Of course,” she answers.

“Am I a polar bear?”

“Of course you are,” she replies.

“Okay,” he says.

The polar bear’s father looks over at him.

“Son,” he says, “every day for the last three days you have been asking us, ‘Am I a polar bear?’ Well, I’m a polar bear. Your mother is a polar bear. All of our parents were polar bears. You come from a line of polar bears stretching back to when polar bears first ran across this ice. Why do you keep asking if you’re a polar bear?”

A little tear forms in the polar bear cub’s eye as he looks squarely at his parents.

“Because,” he says, “I’m fucking freezing.”