How does a blizzard move me?


My brother sent me this evocative snow print of a painting by Bill Alexander (dated 1972). My photo of it behind glass is a little blurred — as are my memories of snow. I do remember striding on skiis through woods in Upper Michigan in the late 1940s. When our generation was in grade school, we welcomed a blizzard to call off school. We did not realize the dangers. Our dad, for instance, could have been caught out on a lonely, two-track logging road where he often had to go to persuade workers to wear safety helmets.

There is a book about children long ago  in North Dakota who were sent home from school when a snow storm was predicted. It related how each little sibling group and worried parents probably perished. It was terrifying to read.

Two members of our family are affected by the blizzard currently sweeping over the Plains from Canada. Roads are closed from Chicago to Albuquerque. Our son is waiting in Lubbock, Texas, for the plows to clear the way to the small town where dairies are waiting with milk, and where our youngest granddaughter is visiting her mother. He texts me: “More snow. 50 mile wind gusts.” Translation: One more school day lost; one more workday spent telecommuting.

Our oldest granddaughter, a native of Arizona, is in college in Kansas, under even worse blizzard conditions. When she left at Christmas I offered her two wool vests I bought in England in 1986, one Irish tweed, another, Scottish mohair. She politely declined. I packed them up today and mailed them along with my retired scarves and gloves.

My husband and I were telling another warm-blooded granddaughter (age 14) about icicles. She had never heard of them until this year. Her  brother is a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where his PE class is Snowboarding 101. He told his family about a girl who got hit on the head with an icicle. That triggered our thoughts of gigantic icicles that grew all the way from the roof overhangs to the ground. You couldn’t budge those until the thaw, but it was good fun to break off two-foot long icicles and have mock sword fights along the tops of snowbanks. My husband grew up in New Jersey; I lived in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Like most young males, he relished snowball battles. I liked making angels in the fresh fallen snow. Neither of us went out in blizzards. When he was at college in upstate New York, it was impossible to walk uphill in a bad winter storm; you kept sliding back down. Snow piled against the library windows almost to the top of the glass.

The first blizzard I can recall occurred in 1943. My mother was sitting in a chair slip-covered in a red material with tiny posies all over it, painting her long nails with red lacquer. I stood beside her leaning my forehead on the front window, watching school kids walk by on their way home, heads down to avoid the sting of the accelerating storm of slanting ice needles. Suddenly there was a thump against our house. A boy was throwing snowballs at the twin girls whose grandmother lived in our neighborhood. One twin fell.

That grandmother sewed snowsuits for those girls for Christmas and, being about their size, I was asked to try them on in the process. I can’t imagine sewing a snowsuit. Mine was likely from Penneys or Sears. It was stiff and thick for insulation, and maroon. By the time I had children there were colorful, lighter weight fabrics to choose from. I can still see in my mind’s eye the lively green, red and tan flowers on my 5-year-old  daughter’s jacket. Buying new snowsuits was an autumn ritual until we moved to the desert Southwest.

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