Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dreaming of a Big White Blizzard

I need a Blizzard. A February 1978 New England Blizzard. I know most of you are saying to yourselves, “Are you NUTS?!?!?” Yes, at this point, I am. I barely made it through school vacation last week. But I wish we would have a big major three- or four-day blizzard. Maybe what I really wish for it to have a blizzard like it was back then. Nowadays most of us would just jump in the all-wheel drive SUV to drive around, or jump on the home computer and log in. And, more importantly, the advances in weather forecasting and the 27/7 availability of news today would most likely change how such a blizzard would be handled (then again, this is New England, where our weathermen and women seem to get it wrong at least once a winter - “well, Jake, last night’s snowstorm really caught us off-guard, hahaha, but that’s weather in New England”…).

I remember that week with great fondness. We had already had a rather large snowfall in the week or two before, so any snowfall would be adding to our white winterscape. Sledding (without helmets!) and cross-country skiing after school were the norm with the kids in the neighborhood. Snow caves had already been carved out of the banks around our driveways, and tunnels filled with snowballs for throwing sat waiting for launching.

Being in grade school, we were dismissed early that day with an ominous warning from our teacher, who was a real science guy – he’d had us watching our classroom weather station, and he thought it was going to be a pretty big storm. He told us to take all our books home and gave us extra work, and then said clearly, “Make sure you all go straight home. No going to the library, or downtown, or your friend’s house. Just go home.”

We went straight home, just as the storm was really starting. My parents came home, lucky enough to get out of work early. And it snowed. And snowed. No school Tuesday – we listened to the weather and my parents painted the cellar stairwell. Wednesday – no school again, still snowing, and now the Governor, in his rag wool sweater, is on TV, telling us no travel for the rest of the week. Listening to WBZ and folks calling in to try and find family members who had gotten stuck on Route 128 and elsewhere, some of whom had medical conditions. More painting – this time, my parents’ bedroom. Periods of power outages and the phone lines going down, then back up again as a party line (we ended up on the same line as our neighbor and a friend down the street). Neighbors coming over, and everyone playing board games and cooking in and on our wood stove (we had an old one that had a grill that swung out – which came in handy!). Thursday, painting another room – hmmm, maybe my memories weren’t really good ones, but I was so high fumes, I couldn’t tell the difference. Probably not a good idea to paint when you CAN’T open the windows or improve the ventilation, huh?! Snowmobilers coming to the door and asking if we needed anything important – they were making a run to the little corner store about a mile away, and were checking with everyone along the way. The couple who ran the store wrote charges on an index card so you could pay them later, and handed the items out their upstairs kitchen window – the first floor where the store was had a drift covering it. Friday, a plow finally made its way down our street, only to have the winds drive the snow back in behind it. And we began the official shovel-out at our house. By Saturday, things were getting somewhat back to normal.

But for that week, we had togetherness. Not just my family – my neighbors, my friends, perfect strangers all worked together that week. Things were simple – heat, meals, games. No phones, no computers, no work, no school, no shopping. Kerosene lamps and wood stoves kept us in the light and warm. I would just love to have a week where my family and I could just unplug. Where I wouldn’t be worrying about what obligations I had, what cleaning I had to do, what was next on my list. And, while I know a lot of it was that I was a kid, and I’m sure my parents had the same things running through their heads then that I do now, I miss that feeling of simpleness. Would a weeklong blizzard solve it?

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