Snow Days

Snow Days

Remember just two blogs ago, I exhorted all of you to embrace the much maligned winter season? Well, I can just imagine your thoughts about that as winter, over the past six days, has held us in its embrace, not your grandmother’s warm, reassuring hot chocolate hug but more like the lethal squeeze of a very hungry anaconda.

Before I start talking about the blizzard, I should say that we at our house haven’t had such a bad time of it. We didn’t lose power and neither of us had to be anywhere on Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday, or…well, round about Monday I did really want to go to the supermarket. All our fresh food was gone as well as a great many other staples that I realized ought to have been replenished before the big storm broke over us. I was reduced to nibbling on crackers and sunflower seeds as our over-worked plowing contractor finally did show up about noon on Monday to plow our driveway of roughly 120 yards. He was haggard and sleep-deprived and told my husband that the conditions of Nemo were worse than the blizzard of 1978, at least as regards plowing the snow away afterwards.

The blizzard of 1978, I do remember it. I was a freshman in high school. I remember being off school, much as I am now, for quite a number of days, as the town struggled to plow out all the roads and parking lots so that we could go back. I remember my father, getting up on the sunny morning after the storm had abated, snow-blowing the driveway and setting off to work without bothering to turn on the radio to see what was what. He drove, tapes of swing tunes turned up high, along a deserted (and well-plowed) Route 57 down to the coast, making it to his factory in South Norwalk only to find a huge, unwelcoming drift across the front door and not a soul in sight. In those days before cell phones, he sat and waited a few minutes and then pointed the car back in the direction of home, once again popping in one of his beloved Benny Goodman tapes before he turned out onto the Post Road. It was only when he got home to the house in Newtown that he found out the reason he had had, as he later described, “one of the pleasantest winter drives he’d ever had in his life.” Governor Grasso had closed all the state roads that morning.

As Governor Malloy did this time around, too. Which is why I didn’t expect the plow guy on Saturday. But I did kind of think he would turn up by Sunday afternoon. I had planned to go shopping for Sunday dinner and was a little miffed that we had to have a “whatever was left in the refrigerator” meal and then go without our cereal and milk on Monday morning. In fact, long about 11:30, an hour after the plow man said he would “for sure” be here, I was thinking about boiling up a shoe for Monday lunch. My husband was contemplating the back-breaking task of shoveling a 120 yard long path to the road and then hacking through the forbidding 4 foot high snow bank that was blocking our driveway from the street. A friend who had a friend who owned a pay loader, and had therefore been plowed already on Saturday night, was going to pick us up to go shopping.

But the plow guy came in the end and I got to go shopping by myself. No shoe leather soup for lunch. I even popped into the bank and paid the mortgage (because you know those guys aren’t going to cut you any slack for snow days).

Notice my main concern about being plowed was so I could get out and get some food. I wasn’t worried about getting to work. This is because, as most of you know, I am a teacher, that lucky profession that doesn’t have to go anywhere while the weather outside is frightful, or even after it has been frightful, for several days afterward as it has turned out. In fact, I haven’t been to school since last Thursday, the day before the blizzard. The streets of Waterbury are not ready for us yet, we are told. The record-breaking snowfall erased them. And in the age of lightning-speed internet and nanotechnology, Neil O’ Leary, the mayor of Waterbury, on Tuesday, in a move which hearkens back to a simpler time, put out an all-call for men with shovels. And they came, these young men, they downed their X-boxes, rose from their couches and sallied forth to do battle with the mountains of snow still burying the city under its drifts, they came in greater numbers than the dubious comments on the Republican-American web site would have had you believe was possible. And they came again today. And the streets and parking lots and sidewalks around the schools are being cleared by the citizens, in many cases by the very students who attend them, of the great city of Waterbury. Strong backs and will power and the offer of minimum wage is doing what the plows could not.

And the latest phone call said they might even open on Friday, maybe, because after all, it’s supposed to snow again tonight.

You’d think after all this, I would retract my previous position on winter, wouldn’t you? But I’m not going to. I still like it. This morning I sat out on the back deck that my husband so laboriously cleared of snow on Sunday and Monday, I sat out in the blazing sunshine and the forty degree temperatures which become almost sixty in the windless area just outside our back door, sat out and gorged myself on the blue sky, blazing sunshine and the fresh air (air that only smells and feels like that when there is a lot of snow on the ground) and the sound of streams swollen with melt water. I sat out and read a book in the sun and enjoyed the peace and quiet and the fact I had nothing to do other than what I was doing.

Until the clouds started coming over and it wasn’t so warm anymore and I had to go back inside. More snow tonight and maybe again on Saturday. And the piles of snow by the sides of our driveway will grow higher again and I’ll be going to school through June. But it’s all good. My house is cleaner than it’s been in a long time and I’ve done my taxes and read all the books that were sitting on my bedside table. I’ve caught up on my sleep and had a lot of free hours where I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything. A gift from the skies, a gift that only comes in winter.