As the February snow melts and re-freezes, taking on the look and sound of carved Styrofoam, Long Island elected officials are scrambling to come up with answers for how municipalities so badly handled snow removal. There is talk of contracts, lack of direction, an overwhelming amount of snow, and the resignation of one highway supervisor — so much talk, in fact, that it’s all starting to sound like a snow job as historical as the blizzard itself.
If only they had paid more attention to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” There always seemed to be snow falling on the other side of the massive window in Mary’s adorable apartment — you know, the one on the top floor of Phyllis’s house. I often dreamt that I would like to live in Mary’s apartment — if only to have Rhoda as a friend.
When it comes to snow, though, Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker as portrayed by Betty White, summed it up perfectly. Her words still echo in my head each time heavy snow is predicted.
“Snow always inspires such awe in me. Just consider one single snowflake alone, so delicate, so fragile, so ethereal. And yet, let a billion of them come together through the majestic force of nature, they can screw up a whole city.”
I remember growing up with snow. It’s what defined winter. I may not be a fan of the white stuff today, but I certainly enjoy the nostalgia that snow stirs up: snow forts, snow angels, snowballs, snowmen, and even a snow slide. If it could be made with snow, it was.
There were walks with my sister down narrow canyons of ice and snow to reach the local deli for food supplies. There was the time when my grandparents from Louisiana visited for Easter, arriving just in time for a rare April blizzard. Every curtain and shade in the house was opened all the way so they could gaze and marvel at the blinding mounds of white. And no winter snow would be complete without the chance to shovel with my father, who approached the task with military — and some might say obsessive — determination. The driveway and front walkway were first completed, followed by the full width of the sidewalk, and finally the paths — to the kennel, to the woodpile, to the garbage cans, and, naturally, to the paths themselves. At the end of the day, our yard was a web of frozen trenches that could rival a WWI battlefield.
Yes, snow was plentiful in those days.
Those days — and that’s when the light bulb went off.
I worry that as our winters have become milder, our memories of snow are becoming milder, as well. How else to explain not only the poor handling of this snow emergency, but also the hysteria among citizens when the forecast (or any snow forecast, for that matter) was given? I know the urgency in the forecasters’ voices has something to do with this, but it can’t take full credit for the new level of hysteria, perfectly spoofed in this YouTube viral video about bread and milk.
I wonder, as snow fails to fall, is winter survival melting from our genetic code? Is this snowlessness normal for the younger generation? Or worse, is this our new normal?
All of this brings to mind a 1954 sci-fi short story by Ray Bradbury, “All Summer In A Day,” which was made into a 1982 short film for PBS. It tells the story of Margot, a young girl who is newly arrived from Earth to a rain-soaked planet where the sun appears for one hour every seven years. She is the only one who has ever seen the sun; her classmates have not.
“Margot stood apart from them, from these children who could never remember a time when there wasn’t rain and rain and rain. They were all nine years old, and if there had been a day, seven years ago, when the sun came out for an hour and showed its face to the stunned world, they could not recall. . . She knew they thought they remembered a warmness, like a blushing in the face, in the body, in the arms and legs and trembling hands. But then they always awoke to the tatting drum, the endless shaking down of clear bead necklaces upon the roof, the walk, the gardens, the forests, and their dreams were gone.”
I’m far from being a climatologist, but I think it’s safe to say that weather is changing. It could be a natural warm cycle that we’re all witnessing or it could be global warming to which we’ve all contributed. Either way, we could be witnessing our very own sci-fi/sci-fact short story, “All Winter In A Day.”
It takes place on an aging world where only a few of us remember snow — its beauty, its fun, and yes, its headaches; where only a few of us will be able to recall the subtle colors in a drift of freshly fallen snow, or the time when our street wasn’t plowed, or the adventure of walking through a snow canyon with your sister, or the indescribable sky blue after a snowfall.
It will fall on those who remember snow to spread the word that when it falls, it can be magical — so that youngsters and oldsters will run outside to catch flakes on their tongues, to fall backwards and flap their arms and legs, to hurl perfectly packed balls of white at one another, to race downhill on a sled, to shovel connecting paths with fathers, to laugh — before the green world returns.
By the way, this weekend’s forecast is for a light dusting of snow. I like the dusting kind; it’s the crushing one that gives me grief — but through both and in-between, I’ll have my snow memories and new ones, as well — to help me get through the day and to share.