Monday, January 10, 2011

Memory Monday: Winter

When I was growing up in Southern California and Texas, I would have given an arm and a leg to have snow in the winter. Well, maybe not. You can’t make a decent snow angel with only one arm and one leg.

And making snow angels was definitely an experience I wanted to have. And throwing snowballs. And building a snow fort.

But San Bernardino is in a desert. And northeast Texas is something worse. Winters are mild, which suits most people’s preferences, I guess. But I felt deprived.

Once in San Bernardino when I was growing up it snowed. The flakes melted as they hit the ground.

We got an ice storm in Texas one winter. It created a frozen layer over the ground. No one could walk anywhere for a couple of days, because you could not even stand up on the slippery ice.

My brother Don and I got to experience snow a couple of times when Mom and Dad took us to Big Bear Lake. I can remember two things from those trips: throwing snowballs and altitude sickness.

I applied to only two colleges, one in Texas and one on the East Coast. When I was accepted at both, I chose to attend the one out on the East Coast, because I figured it would have more interesting weather.

It did. During my first semester at Georgetown, we had a big snowstorm in October. Heaven. I could not stand to go inside to study. It was just too much fun, too exciting. All of my East-Coast-born-and-bred college friends laughed at me, but I think they secretly enjoyed it all, too.

I decided to go to graduate school in the Northeast, and the weather there didn’t disappoint, either. As a matter of fact, I was there during the Blizzard of 1978. Bob Ryan, then a weatherman for the Boston area, predicted that we would only get a “light dusting” of one to three inches. I, the Snow Amateur, went outside to look at the sky. It looked heavy, really heavy; there was no way we were going to avoid a Major Storm. I went to the local grocery store to stock up on food. That night the area got between 27 and 36 inches of snow, which formed deep banks in places as the result of high winds. After taking a vote (!?), the powers-that-be at Harvard decided that classes would actually be canceled for a few days. I became acquainted with the pleasures of winter hibernation.

Because we live in the mid-Atlantic area, my daughters have grown up with the Joy of Snow. They experienced the Blizzard of ’96 and, more recently, Snowmagaddon. People with young children learn something about snow-enforced hibernation: Cabin Fever. A couple of days after the snow had finally stopped, my husband and the dad of my daughters’ friends across the street dug a tunnel connecting the two houses. The next day two other dads of friends dug connector tunnels into that. We credit the survival of our children and our sanity to those tunnels and the opportunity they provided for our kids to visit, play, and run off some steam. It didn't hurt that we were within dig-out distance of a 7-11 Store, either.

Daughter B and a neighbor after a snowfall in the early 1990s

Daughter E after the Blizzard of ’96 with a bucket-and-holly snowman

We also learned that our street never gets plowed by the DOT. That is, not until after our neighbor’s friend is able to get here with his plow and do a darn creditable job clearing our residential street. Then the DOT plow shows up and, without clearing a speck of snow off of the middle part of the road, pushes the big piles we have made back into our parking places and in front of our newly cleared driveways.

In between the two storms that formed Snowmageddon out here in the mid-Atlantic, I did the unthinkable: I drove my husband to the airport. What was I thinking? Why had I abandoned my sanity? It was, in fact, one of those times that I knew I owed my husband a Big Favor. And that is the last time I will ever do that. I delivered him and I got home safely. It helps a lot when it’s just you and the Department of Transportation out there. Because Everyone with Half a Mind Is Smart Enough to Say Off the Roads. Did you know that driving down a curving, sloping onramp onto an interstate after a big snowstorm brings many of those same thrills that one gets on a roller coaster? White knuckles optional.

The view from our back porch after the first snowfall of Snowmageddon

Even at my arthritic age, driving in the snow is still probably the only thing that does not please me about winter and snow. Winter is for play, for sinfully long winter naps, and for hearty soups and more coffee than is good for you.

This is part of Amy Coffin’s (We Tree) series of prompts entitled 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History. When the subject is not one covered in a previous Memory Monday posting, I will try to sync the topics with my Memory Monday posts this year.

This is the prompt for week 2: Winter. What was winter like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.


  1. What a memory you've got, mentioning Bob Ryan to boot! Lucky you, living through the "78" storm, of which everybody still talks about. I was in your area, and you were up here, now we are reversed. Remember last year, all your cold and snow and you were two weeks behind. Anyway, I hate snow, and was lucky not to see it for my 1st 10 yrs., as I was living near SF. Enjoy your next one, it is coming to you first, then to me!

  2. It's too soon to tell, I guess - but I suspect this winter may be a repeat of last year in our area. Far lower than what we are used to in total amount of snowfall. Three years ago by this time we were wondering where we were going to put the stuff!

    Naturally - one big blizzard - perhaps in March, and I never said any of this. (GRIN).

    Oh - driving in snow is not too bad WITH proper snow tires, black ice is a lot scarier IMO.
    ATB! Rusty near Montreal

  3. Great post, 1978 storm hit Michigan as well. Kids loved it, mom, not so much.

    Love the matching boots and coat daughter B has on!

  4. Greta, I loved reading this beautifully written post about your memories of winter and snow! Tunnels in the snow - how clever (and smart!)
    Loved the photos, too. Sounds as if many of us will be seeing more of the white stuff later this week!

  5. Barbara - The reason I remember Bob Ryan's name is that he is now a weatherman in our area! I think of his forecast for that storm every time a big storm rolls in!

  6. Rusty - You are very brave to make predictions! It seems that down here we either get next to nothing or we get a huge pile of snow. Of course, compared to you all up there, we are probably still weather sissies. But as we came home from Philadelphia today, I saw the salt trucks already lining the sides of the highways here in VA and the snow isn't even here, yet!

  7. Carol - Oh, the child with the matching coat and boots was the neighbor boy! My daughter is the baby and that's me behind her.

  8. Janice - Believe me, the parents were all desperate by then. My daughter had a birthday party a week after the storm, and every kid showed up - we were certain that the parents were all relieved to get their kids out of the house!

  9. Oh, Carol, I forgot to add - and I can see why you thought the neighbor boy was my daughter - those ARE the same boots that the younger daughter was wearing in the other picture. We got them from him!

  10. Greta you are so right - if I didn't have to drive anywhere, I would love just sitting back and enjoying the winter! but all those other drivers out there are Crazy (not me of course, I drive perfectly)! :-)

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  12. We recieved 25 inches of fresh snow today, and as I was stuck at home catching up on email and blogs I read your post. I'm glad you enjoyed your big storm in 1978, I remember walking home from school that day and the snow went from ankle deep to above the knees by the time I got home. The next day we crawled out a window because we couldn't open the front door! What memories! Not quite so bad today, but almost...

  13. This was a fun post, Greta. My husband and I were group home managers for 8 juvenile delinquent boys (24/7) during the storm of '78! The memories I have!

    I love your daughter's little bucket snowman with the holly. Cute.

    Winter used to be my favorite season but it's always so much colder now than when I was young. Do you mind the cold?

  14. Leah - It is always in the winter that I start to have dreams about living in a place where I can walk everywhere I need to go!

  15. Linda - Thank you so much - though I've received it before, it is still a great encouragement to receive this award from other bloggers.

  16. Heather - I remember that feeling of being stuck in the dorm; it took the University more than a day to get the drifts around the dorm doors dug out. Sounds like this latest spate of storms is a lot like 1978!

  17. Nancy - There's no denying that the cold can make me ache, but I love the feeling of cuddling up in my "blankie" and drinking something hot - it still beats summer in my book.

  18. What an interesting set of memories! Like you I was snow-less as a child & equally thrilled when I saw it for the first time.

  19. Growing up in Louisiana, I have always felt the same way about snow. At least I get a little here in North Carolina now. I was disappointed a few weeks ago when it snowed everywhere in North Carolina except here. Even North Louisiana got snow!