Another 5-8″ this afternoon into tonight. And we’re only halfway through February! Now, if you know me, you know I prefer cold weather to the heat and humidity of summer. But cold, dry weather is one thing. The trifecta of snow, ice, and freezing rain is a completely different nightmare.
We’re all tired of it. I see it on the faces of moms in the supermarket, preparing for another day of no school. I see it in the face of my little dog, who does not like squatting on ice! I see it on my car, splattered with salt and sand, even after a thorough washing.
And then I pause, remembering our ancestors, who did not have electric blankets, Thinsulate, Ugg boots, clothes dryers, or TheraFlu. They made it through harsh winters, and never complained on social media! But isn’t that part of the fun? We post photos and videos as a way of coping.
And we know that this never-ending season, this winter filled with discontent, will melt away under the sun. Eventually.
Traffic snarls around Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence, R.I., on the afternoon of February 6, 1978, the first day of the 1978 blizzard. The 24-hour storm that pounded the Northeast crippled Rhode Island for more than a week, cutting off power, closing the airport and straining state resources. (AP Photo/The Providence Journal, Richard Benjamin)
I was a sophomore at Providence College, and this blizzard came just two months after a devastating fire on campus that eventually claimed the lives of ten young women. We were rehearsing the musical “Candide,” and it was the first year I was an active participant in behind-the-scenes action. By the time rehearsal had ended and we stepped outside, we knew this was no ordinary snowstorm. Fortunately, the liquor store around the corner accepted personal checks (no ATMs). Two of my friends and I walked up Smith Street to the Stop and Shop supermarket, because we’d learned that they, too, accepted checks. After buying as much junk food as we could, we then had to carry two brown bags each, full of chips, cookies, and M&Ms, two miles back down Smith Street to the college. Oh, and the elevators were out. We lived on the fifth floor of McVinney Hall. But as was the case so many times that year, I lived in my own little world and was oblivious to what was going on around me.
These days we’re connected all the time. The meteorologists started talking about a potential blizzard last Monday, so there was plenty of time to prepare. And we’re adults now, so our focus is different. Snow began falling Friday morning – a fine, light snow that didn’t look threatening at all. The snow continued, getting heavier and denser by afternoon. By the time it ended on Saturday, my little town had two feet of snow. No power outages here, thankfully, but we may have lost a few shrubs and I don’t like so much snow on the roof. High winds (up to 60mph gusts) Friday night brought down a lot of branches. Other communities weren’t so lucky, and the loss of power in such cold weather means a hardship we’re not accustomed to experiencing. These are things we think about as adults, I suppose. Still, walking around the neighborhood yesterday felt ethereal: peaceful, white, pristine.
It’s what we expect in winter. We’re New Englanders!
It’s cold here in Rhode Island! I know, we’re not alone in this, and I’m not complaining (really) – winters in New England aren’t supposed to be balmy; that’s why the snowbirds head south.
So yesterday my husband and I took his father to the movies. Not a small feat. He’s 81 and tethered to an oxygen tank, and he moves v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. They boys wanted to see Zero Dark Thirty, and while I know it’s a good film, I didn’t want to see the violence. I opted for Silver Linings Playbook, loving Katniss, I mean Jennifer Lawrence, and the very gifted Bradley Cooper. The timing worked well, so off I went in a different direction while the boys made their way to the theatre at the opposite end of the complex.
I’d packed my purse with a bottle of Vitamin Water Zero and a pile of tissues. I’ve been dealing with a cold for the past week, and let me tell you, once you’re on the third box of Puffs Plus With Lotion, it still hurts to blow your nose. But I was prepared. I settled in my seat, way up and on the end, and watched the theatre fill with a lot of older people who may or may not have known what the movie was about. I heard one elderly woman tell her friend how much she liked DeNiro. Okay.
One row in front of me, at the other end, two men found seats. One of them was very loud (until the movie began, thankfully). He said to his friend, “Let’s sit here. No, leave a seat between us. We’re guys, we don’t have to sit so close.” A few minutes later, but still before the feature started, I heard the familiar sound of cellophane tearing, and he shouted said, “You know, there are a lot of nut cases in this movie.” Then, “Hey, did you just take three Twizzlers? Because I only took two, and we’re sharing these snacks.”
Anyway, the movie is terrific. See it if you haven’t. And the boys said they thought ZDT was excellent, so see that one if you want.
By the time we were all back in the lobby, it was after six, and my father-in-law offered to take us out for a bite. We chose the Texas Roadhouse, because it was close (it was about 9 degrees last night, with wind). The Texas Roadhouse is a lively, spirited place where everyone really seems to enjoy themselves. I’ve never seen a waiter or waitress who didn’t appear to be happy, and management can’t force that stuff. We had a great waiter and more than enough to eat. As I set my fork on my plate and vowed not to have even one more bite, I glanced to my right, just as the very large man at the next table picked up his black linen napkin and used it to blow his nose. I tried not to gape, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME? His very pretty wife (or date) appeared to be unfazed. I turned to my husband, who had missed the spectacle, and whispered. He shook his head with disappointment. My father-in-law looked up and asked, “What’s going on? What did I miss?” and we dismissed it, as we often do. The guy actually did it again, and I expected him to stuff the napkin in his pocket or something. I mean, he wouldn’t leave it on the table, would he? Oh, yes he would. I looked at the woman again and thought about two characters for one of my stories. Inspiration is everywhere.
We had a mini-vacation last week, right after New Year’s. While a lot of people dream about spending time in St. Bart’s or Aruba during the winter, we like to take advantage of the bright, white landscape. So we drove north to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and checked in to our little cabin. Yes, they’re rustic! But you know what? I’ve stayed in plenty of high-end hotels. Sometimes they can disappoint (high expectations to match the high price). Besides, when you want your little dog with you, you can’t always be choosy. This place was wonderful – cozy, spotless (and yes, it’s always a good idea to check, no matter where you stay), friendly, quiet.
Our first night there it was about ten below outside, but we were warm and cozy (except when Bonnie needed to go out for a walk). I was able to write, and read, and watch the Food Network if I wanted. It was a short drive to Meredith and we spent time around the lake, poking into a bookstore, a coffee shop, making Bonnie ride in the sleigh (see below).
The little getaways are restorative. We returned home to all the accoutrements we’re grown accustomed to having within easy reach, but spending time in a simpler place focuses the mind on what’s important: love, communication, and cold air to fill one’s lungs.