Snow Days

If you live in or around Seattle then you have probably just been snowed upon. This is such a rare enough occurrence here that the mere threat of snow compelled the Powers That Be to cancel school before the white stuff started falling. Growing up in Providence, RI we would have scoffed at such a thing. I have the distinction of having walked a mile in a literal blizzard to get home from school. I was twelve, and so of course I loved snow, and I loved it all the more for closing school, but there was a moment in my trek, about a half-mile from home, that I found myself thinking, “This is actually getting unpleasant.”

This was the Great Blizzard of ’78. RI was caught off guard by the storm and our roads remained impassable for days. Like many families we were forced to drag a sled from the garage and pull it to the nearest supermarket so that we could have bread and milk. We were running out of food, you see – actually running out of food. Everyone, rich and poor, was running out of food.  Who thought such a thing was possible in America in 1978?

This experience had such a profound effect on Rhode Islanders that to this day, my RI relatives tell me, stores still sell out of bread and milk when a winter storm warning is issued. As Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Still, I don’t believe society is as fragile as some Rhode Islanders might fear it is. When the plows finally did get to plowing, one came groaning and steaming down our street. As he neared our house, he spied us standing snowbound in our front yard, and he turned his machine and plowed our driveway. We were surprised, and I think he was surprised himself, but then we waved and cheered him and he smiled and waved back, and next thing he was plowing our neighbor’s driveway, and then our neighbor’s neighbor’s driveway. The snowdrift he left behind survived until March, just long enough to hear the first myths of that winter be told.

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