O Jesus, even though I’m allergic to bathing suits, I love Your beaches with palm trees doing their tropical dance. But, cabin fever notwithstanding, OMG, I hope Your heaven includes one winter planet swathed in Your magnificent snow.
It was the best of times. Set in the worst of times.
Amid COVID restrictions, how could we celebrate 46 years of wedded stress — er, bliss?
Normally, I offer suggestions way beyond our first anniversary, when Hubby’s parents paid for dinner at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. Now, we pay for our own celebratory meals, sometimes in restaurants with daunting silverware and equally daunting prices. We no longer limit trips to exotic locales like Wabash, Indiana. Once, we even splurged on Hawaii.
But now, what to do?
Hubby enthused, “Let’s take a hike.”
But we hike so much, Hubby’s Fitbit thingy is exhausted.
“It’s cold,” I whined. Snuggling and drinking hot chocolate sounded saner.
“But I want to play in the snow.”
Snow? Okay! I donned cold-weather gear.
In a nearby forest, verdant pines and leafless oaks looked equally elegant. Outlined in white, scraggly weeds and thorny bushes proclaimed their Creator’s redemption. Though seemingly dormant, the forest teemed with animal tracks — with life.
Our decades together rested on us, light and joyous as snow.
It was the best of times.
Temperatures rose the next day, when we hiked at a nearly deserted park. Trees, having lost magical white clothing, shivered. We plowed through dark, sticky mud, attractive only when I imagined we were adventuring through brownie batter.
Soon, we navigated puddles, then streams flowing across trails. Images of Israelites crossing the Red Sea flooded my brain. Biblical thoughts, at least — more biblical than some eddying in my mind.
At a bison pen, big, shaggy animals barely blinked at our presence.
Bored bison are so romantic. Especially their smell.
Water inspires swoon-moon-June feelings, even in January. But the gray, half-frozen lake resembled an old black-and-white TV screen.
Skinny-dipping? For polar bears only.
Hubby asked, “Want to kayak?”
“Not enough ice and water for you on this trail?” I queried.
Fortunately, he was only half-serious. But he related how he and fellow Boy Scouts, during their winter paddle, chewed gum to mend their busted canoe.
“We had fun,” he insisted.
Despite challenges, we’d enjoyed our second hike, too. Together.
On January 4, 1975, I wouldn’t have anticipated fun on a mud hike. Then, we were all about storybook moments, white and sparkly like my wedding gown.
We still relive those moments, as on that incredible, snowy hike.
Still, mud-hike marriage moments happen, even in Hawaii. On a tropical trail, Hubby extracted me from sucky mud that stained us orange.
Thank God, we haven’t told each other to take a hike. Instead, we’ve taken a lifelong hike together, including the best of times and the worst of times.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are magical and mud-hike moments in your marriage?
This post first appeared on January 13, 2016.
We Midwesterners share a rich heritage of blizzard stories. Deprived tropics dwellers can’t appreciate our 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 refused to navigate three-foot drifts. My medical student husband hiked to a police station, catching 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 also was missing in action, helped eat it. Walking 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, Indiana, 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 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 — along with remodelers who braved the storm to sledgehammer walls.
Blizzard days two decades later prove far less traumatic, but can stop our lives cold. Yet even if I must search for leftover Christmas candles to light my longhand efforts, I’ll do my usual January thing: tell blizzard stories.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Snowmageddon tale?
No way, they said. It can’t happen, they said. But OMG, thank You that nothing could or can keep the Resurrection down!
Even typing those words makes me quiver with paranoia. Do I dare mention the weather to neighbors, coworkers or friendly convenience store clerks? With a few unguarded words, I may jinx the entire Midwest!
Despite brown winter’s ugliness and dreariness, some consider the warmer weather a gift, especially after enduring several weeks of Snowmageddon. Anyone who mentioned “global warming” then was sentenced to shoveling the town’s driveways with a teaspoon.
No one battling the notorious blizzard of ’78 had ever heard of global warming. If a foolhardy soul had suggested such to brides whose winter weddings were postponed indefinitely, they might have strangled him with tulle bows and buried him in uneaten wedding cake.
Others who survived that months-long whiteout not only stopped driving, they gave up finding their vehicles until spring.
Brown winter, by comparison, seems good.
- Midwestern weddings should happen on schedule this weekend.
- Cars start. They move!
- Even if buckets of rain fall, we don’t have to shovel them.
- Lower heating bills and fewer frozen pipes also give us cause to celebrate.
- Mothers rejoice their offspring will not need the 25 pounds of clothing required on snowy days. My son rated snowsuits along with vaccinations and boogeymen. Every outing resulted in a mother/son smackdown, the loudest always occurring at either the library or church.
- A thaw dramatically reduces the likelihood of mistaken identity. Government statistics state that due to warmer temperatures, 77 percent fewer parents bring home the wrong kid from school.
To be sure, skiers and resort owners long for the white stuff. Ice skating rink owners anxiously await frigid temperatures.
No town wants its snow and ice festival to morph into a Sleet and Slop Spectacular. Nor do cities that have busted budgets, buying snowplows and stockpiling mountains of salt, look kindly on brown winters.
Worst of all, snowbirds cannot bear photos of friends back home visiting mailboxes in their shirtsleeves.
Yes, brown winters remain unpopular with some.
Me? I’m a coat-hater from decades back. (So my son’s snowsuit antipathy is no surprise.)
Still, I can’t help but welcome whispery snowflake kisses on my hood as we walk to church. Thousands of priceless diamonds glitter in my sunny backyard. Wind-carved curves of snow defy human artistry. …
I should have kept my mouth shut.
The Weather Channel predicts snow’s return within a week. Do these scientific drama kings and queens truly know their stuff?
Brown or white winter today?
Stay tuned for our latest paranoia.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which do you prefer, a brown or white winter?
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?