I grew up in Minnesota where there are only two seasons: winter and road construction. Winter is nine months long. There is no sunshine, only a cloudy haze from which precipitation may pour at any moment. The land is flat for 300 miles in every direction, so once the wind gets going there’s nothing to slow it down. Oh, and the jet stream is coming down from Canada. On any given day, the wind chill factor can drag the temperature down by more than twenty degrees. It’s not hard to believe that this is where the glaciers stopped. What I don’t understand is how they melted.
New York is a balmy oasis by comparison—a complete seasonal cycle with just a soupcon of global warming. Still, every time December rolls around, I get the winter terrors. New Yorkers walk everywhere or we take the subway. The wind going up and down Manhattan avenues is enough to blow you around the corner and I have yet to meet the heated platform. We are on the front lines of the weather war.
People who don’t leave Minnesota as soon as they turn eighteen (or graduate high school, whichever comes first) and live to tell about it, they find ways not to come in direct contact with the cold. They have heated garages and all of the downtown office buildings are connected by second story glassed-in walkways called skyways. Extra taxes are levied to heat the homes of the poor and the aged and homeless people are conscientiously sheltered—it’s a matter of life and death. The last time most of these people were on the front lines they were little kids waiting on the corner for the school bus. Indeed, those are the memories that haunt me to this day.
It would happen something like this. You go to sleep at night shivering under what can never be enough blankets. You wake up even colder, which means in the middle of the night the water in the pipes froze solid or the boiler conked out. You’ll be able to get a minute long cold shower before packing off to the bus stop. When you leave the house you are wearing moon boots, two pairs of socks, long underwear under jeans, a long-sleeved undershirt, a sweater, a scarf for under the coat, the parka, the hat and gloves, and the scarf for over your coat that mom or dad will wrap around your head leaving only a gap for your eyes and your runny nose.
You start down the sidewalk and you think it’s a good thing you know where you’re going because it feels like you’re in a maze; the snowdrifts on either side of you are five feet high and you can’t see over them. When you get to the corner, you and all the other kids stand with your backs to the wind and pray that the bus comes before your bodily fluids freeze, sealing shut your air passages and suffocating you…to death.
Then that mean, restless little boy from down the block pops out from behind one of the snow drifts and throws a snowball at you. He is in fact a snowball artiste. He has hit you in the ear where the folds of your outer scarf must separate to allow for your eye opening. The snowball was packed tightly enough to penetrate this chink in your armor, but not so tightly that it shatters on impact. No, it is the heat seeking snowball, splitting into shards that slide down your neck and into the folds of the inner scarf. When the bus does arrive and you climb into its stuffy, steamy warm cavity, the shards will melt and you will be wrapped in wet wool.
All right, I’ll stop, but when I see snow come down this is my sense memory reaction. I am cold and as long as I’m outside nothing will get better. That’s why this weekend I stockpiled enough provisions to avoid leaving my house for at least a week. My office is next door to my bedroom and I’ve never been more pleased about it. I know the meaning of the word blizzard.
What I got instead was truly a winter wonderland. Today was so sunny and beautiful, I had to get out and see it all for myself. I went for a trudge in Prospect Park and everything was pristine and majestic and white. And I didn’t even need my gloves!
The few people who were out were cross country skiers, die-hard runners, or fellow spectators equally caught up in nature’s benevolent act. Maybe it was because there were no tourists in the vicinity, but we all smiled at each other and said hello as we passed.
I read this morning that this wasn’t technically a blizzard because wind gusts were well below 60 miles per hour. And according to weather.com it will be 48 degrees on Thursday, so the snow won’t last long enough to get all trampled and ugly. I ask you, how lucky can a girl get?
Here today, gone tomorrow; it’s the perfect snowstorm.