O my God, have you heard a single “Nice weather we’re having” today? Not that I’ve thanked You for the winter advisory, either. Maybe … You might explain why we need more snow? I didn’t think so. OMG, is January Your way of teaching Your kids, “Because I said so”?
Forget postcard views of palms waving in sunny breezes. Forget panoramas of azure ocean and white sands sent by gloating relatives. Warm-weather residents miss some of the most exciting winter scenes one can experience: first-class snow removal.
Admittedly, imagination and keen discernment is required, but therein lies the beauty.
Even Hawaiian residents must concede that neighbor kids rising on a sleep-in snow day to shovel their driveway is a beautiful sight.
Add to that quiet heroism of snowplow and salt truck drivers who often work 24/7 so we who must remain home because of closed schools and businesses don’t have to remain at home. While panicked meteorologists must be put on oxygen while reporting winter’s mega-storms, many snowplow operators venture out gratis. Some have itched all winter to drive their honkin’ big trucks with monster blades, but machismo can’t hide big hearts that determine to plow roads and driveways for the elderly, the infirm and the bank-account challenged.
We fell into the latter class the year my husband opened his solo medical practice. Living on borrowed money, we pinched pennies until they begged for mercy. Hubby often vanished, spending rare time at home sleeping and eating. I, toting a toddler and pregnant with a second child, didn’t rate the world’s most efficient snow remover. But my husband’s patients never had to worry about his timely care. When Lake Michigan gleefully dumped half its H2O in flake form into our driveway, a snowplow hero, paid only with my homemade bread, faithfully cleared it. Thus, my toddler, unborn baby and I could sally forth between blizzards for groceries.
Some snow heroes use only shovels, blowers, and strong backs. Our neighborhood children didn’t appreciate snowblower-toting guys who ensured they would arrive at school on time. But cabin-feverish moms, elderly folks and a cancer victim were eternally grateful.
During one Snowmaggeddon, I awakened to discover the multitude milling outside was our church youth group and their pastor, clearing out the last of the snow from our driveway. I’ll bet both my snow shovels that no San Diego residents awaken to surprises like that.
But warm-weather residents miss an even greater view we savor every year. The snow giants will eventually disappear before the power of gentle rains and stubborn green baby fingers poking up through the soil. Certainly, the giants reassert their power during tourney time, as every basketball-crazy Hoosier knows. But their second-class strength will bow to God’s spring every time.
If that isn’t first-class snow removal, I don’t know what is.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do winter heroes live in your neighborhood?
These January words echo across several decades.
Actually, as a child, I liked my clumping, galumping boots. Despite Mom’s firm faith that I would catch 19 diseases, their podiatric force field protected me when stomping ice-covered gutters.
I wished in vain, though, for thigh-high fishing boots like Dad’s. Such superhero footwear would have rendered me invincible, like him.
Unfortunately for my parents, my feet and my siblings’ grew hourly. While my sister acceded to wearing my hand-me-downs, I drew the line at my brother’s galoshes — unless gutters were way full.
Recycled boots weren’t always an option because we children had honed losing winter wear to a fine art. Sporting only left mittens, we misplaced right boots, too.
The positive side: Lack of sufficient winter garb kept us inside warm classrooms at recess. While friends shivered outdoors, I read books I’d longed to sample.
Some favorite stories featured boots. In Little Women, Jo March’s boots helped her play swashbuckling heroes and villains in homegrown dramas. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, a traveling cobbler designed Almanzo Wilder’s first manly pair. Puss in Boots never would have brought his master fame, fortune and a princess if he hadn’t strutted about in that all-powerful footwear.
Still, boots seemed mostly mundane until go-go boots invaded the fifth-grade fashion scene. Unbelievably, my mother refused to buy me white boots amid the muddy slop season.
I whined. I pined. I promised I wouldn’t lose them, not even one.
She wouldn’t budge. So I languished without the go-go boots every girl on the planet owned, except me — and Becky Andrews, a nonconformist who wore tall black boots like Nancy Sinatra’s when she sang “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”
Ten years later, I wore a similar pair that stretched my height well past six feet.
But snow time with my toddlers required sane mommy boots. My little ones readily wore garage sale Strawberry Shortcake and Ninja Turtles boots, even with PJs. They also waded in yucky gutters, despite my warnings.
Years later, they cornered me in a boot discourse similar to my go-go debate with Mom decades before. My children wanted me to spend a gazillion dollars on short-topped “boots” designed to frostbite toes. When I refused, the kids left the row of sensible boots I’d bought to an undisturbed existence in the closet — until I discovered my son’s worked well when I shoveled sidewalks.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you wear your good boots during yucky weather?
Are you ready to sing Christmas songs?
I am! Though each Advent, I’m reminded some Christmas songs are just plain … odd.
Have you tasted a chestnut? Ever?
I sampled my first when someone at Taylor University, concerned that thousands of good, Christian people were singing lies every Advent, roasted chestnuts over an open fire after a Christmas event.
They tasted like smoky, boiled lima beans.
The immortal Erma Bombeck suggested we sing about popcorn in the microwave instead.
Accuracy does not necessarily make a song. Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” originally began with a homesick guy’s lament about his sunny, palm-tree-dotted Christmas Eve in Beverly Hills.
If a guy in Frozen Nose, Minnesota, had heard that original version, he might not have helped make that song a best seller. A more likely reaction as he shoveled snow off his roof: “You want a white Christmas, buddy? Turn around, and my boot will send you on a free trip to Santa!”
Who hasn’t warbled, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding”?
Do you hear a “please”? The mom in me bristles. How rude.
Worse yet, “We won’t go until we get some,” sounds like holiday extortion.
Besides, who wants figgy pudding? News flash: It’s fruitcake!
Most carolers would run away screaming.
We sing about reckless driving. Given the second verse of “Jingle Bells,” Miss Fannie Bright’s parents probably had something to say about her date’s driving the nineteenth-century equivalent of an unsafe jalopy. And the unrepentant driver urges other guys to pick up girls and whip fast horses into winning.
Christmas drag racing?
Consider “The Little Drummer Boy,” in which he offers the only gift he possesses to the Christ Child. Lovely.
What mother of a sleeping newborn wouldn’t welcome a kid banging on a drum?
Mary probably would have preferred a “Silent Night,” though most births are anything but. Ditto for babies. Jesus was a newborn who needed feeding, changing and cuddling.
Did He say, “Excuse me, Mom, but I would like a snack”? Perhaps, “I need clean swaddling cloths.” And, “Please lose the cold hands.”
The Bible doesn’t say. It does say that thirty-plus years later, Jesus cried when His friend Lazarus died.
Yet we sing, “The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”
Hmm. Sounds a little odd to me.
Do any Christmas songs strike you as a bit strange?
Oh, my God, this weekend it snowed. Thundered. Hailed. Blew. Walking to church, we had to avoid ice on the streets. Yet, with the sun’s chilly afternoon rays, Hubby changed the oil on the lawn mower and raised the pop-up camper. OMG, is he a man of faith or just crazy?
Oh, my God, the Weather Channel says snow will come our way. Not a blizzard. Not an ice storm, but a typical bundle-up, red-nose winter day, like many, many others. OMG, thank you that February’s a short month. And that it’s not November.
Deprived tropics dwellers cannot appreciate our pulsating anticipation when The Weather Channel threatens wild winds, arctic cold and snow up the wazoo. Nor do they understand the joy of swapping lies — er, stories — of bravery amid Snowmageddon. A lifetime Hoosier, I have plenty to share.
A preschooler during my first blizzard, I recall my mother’s positive thinking. Despite three days in a two-room apartment with three little ones, she described the trees as “chocolate with white icing.” The Frosty we built resembled a malnourished alien, but we waved at him from our window. It seemed a friendly blizzard.
The second blizzard wasn’t. Winds howled like wolves, savaging electricity for several days. Cupboards emptied. Fortunately, shivering neighbors brought groceries when they came to enjoy our gas heat. Thirteen shared our three-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Survivor had nothing on us.
But we nine kids, playing infinite games of Monopoly, Candy Land, and the unofficial but essential Freak the Grown-ups, considered it fun. Our parents, with extended therapy and medication, finally recovered.
A young married couple when the Big One hit in 1978, our car (not-so-affectionately known as the Lemonmobile) refused to navigate three-foot drifts. My medical student husband hiked to a police station, where he caught a ride to a hospital. For three days, he, another student, and a young resident physician — aided by stranded visitors — cared for little patients on a pediatric wing.
Meanwhile, I baked bread. A nearby fellow medical student wife whose husband was also missing in action, helped eat it. On my way home, I foundered in a sea of snow-covered landmarks. Only a faint traffic signal in ghostly darkness sent me the right direction. Then a tall shadow blocked my way.
Gulp. The only rapist crazy enough to be out in this?
“How’s it goin’?” he rasped.
“F-f-fine.” I squeaked.
He passed by. I slogged home. When the snow finally stopped, my husband appeared, fell over like a tree and slept.
Not content with that harrowing weather, we moved north near South Bend, where blizzard stories abound even more than blizzards. Babies and emergencies ignored storm warnings, expecting my doctor husband to show up. How rude.
School snow days brought hungry hoards incapable of studying English or algebra, but well able to conduct snow wars outside our house. Once I was trapped with snow-dueling middle-schoolers, teens armed with boom boxes, and soon-to-be-separated college sweethearts, VELCROed to each other — along with bathroom remodelers who braved the storm to slam sledgehammers against the walls.
Today, some predict an imminent blizzard. Unless electricity goes, my computer battery fails and I can’t find leftover Christmas candles to light my longhand efforts, I will do my usual January thing: tell blizzard stories.
What’s your favorite Snowmageddon tale?