Tuesday, February 23, 2010

white out

Into each life some snow must fall — and fall, and fall. As I write this, the Great Blizzard(s) of 2010 are hopefully winding down.

Sitting here in Sarasota, I can afford to be a bit smug. Yet I resist, as I know in too short a time we will be on the flip side and in the midst of Hurricane Season. But I haven’t lived in the Sunshine State long enough for my snowstorm memories to have faded.

I recall the first great snowfall in a year, the joy, the beauty, the incredible crystalline stillness. And I also remember how it grows old, grey and crusty, the treachery overtaking any beauty, especially for commuters and travelers.

I suspect that’s where most of my northern friends now sit, looking our their windows yearning for something green, a sign of spring.

Whenever storms of these magnitude hit, comparison to previous storms is inevitable. For every generation, however, there is a "storm of the century," the one about which they tell their children.

When the Great Blizzard of ’96 hit, my biggest problem was running out of cat food. Unlike my fellow journalists, I didn’t have to find my way in to the news­room, regardless of weather conditions. Such were the perks of no longer drawing a full-time salary from a daily news organization.

I was also among those fortunate folks who have a solid roof over their heads, a working furnace and ade­quate food, so I spent the my days reflecting on the weather and keeping in touch by phone with friends and family.

While many of those snowbound with small children were pulling out their hair, yearning for peace and quiet, those alone often found them­selves cleaning out closets and polishing sil­ver to stay sane. I thank my lucky stars that I had reinstalled cable. Two solid days of public tele­vision would have surely resulted in a raging case of cabin fever.

For my parents, it was the Blizzard of '47.

Now, 1947 was a particularly good year for me. I was born. Being only six months old when Brooklyn was snowed under, I can't claim to remember the event firsthand. But there are reams of black and white snapshots of me, looking like an overstuffed doll, being pulled through the drifts in front of my grand­parents' house on an old-fashioned wooden sled. I must say, it looked like I was enjoying myself.

Growing up on the north shore of Long Is­land, I recall many a snowstorm bringing things to a halt. Like most kids, I looked for­ward to the days off from school, then got dressed in layers of clothing and plowed through the snow. I can still feel drifts so deep that we sank in up to our waists and had to be rescued by a friend or parent.

For me, however, the storm of the century was the Blizzard of '61.

It was the first time I recall hearing the words "snow emergency." New York City was locked down tight for days, keeping my dad home also. My aunt, uncle and two young cousins were stranded at our Nassau County home. The roads were impassable for so long that my dad and uncle took sleds and hiked several miles to a shopping center, only to find little food left on the shelves.

Us kids had a ball. The Long Is­land Expressway was still under construction and not yet open to traffic. We put it to fine use, sledding down the embankments onto the snow-covered roadway. What a sight. No­body has ever had such a good time on that roadway since, I wager.

We went back to school before the city roads were completely opened, so one of my cousins was allowed to accompany my youn­ger brother to school. Somehow, I can't imagine a public school being that accommo­dating today.

Hey, I don't mean to wax too nostalgic over this. Time and childhood have a way of softening the focus of events. The edges blur into a pleasing shape. As we grow, though, we learn that these spontaneous holidays can be terribly costly. Aside from the loss to business and property, there are always those whose lives are at risk.

For instance, my Aunt Sally will never for­get that 1961 blizzard, either. Regardless of snow emergency rules, she drove into New York City with her 5-year-old son, Neal. She had little choice. My young cousin, in the throes of a losing bout with cancer, needed chemotherapy.

Of course, that's one part of the story my memory tends to leave behind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.............................................