Jan 23, 2024, 06:27AM

Lost Snow Days

Winter is here—along with the beauty, fun, and danger of snow.

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Whatever the weather norm was, it was never average. The world’s continually threatened by circumstances beyond our control. Climate change, extreme weather events, etc. leaves one wondering how much more is still coming. Will weather be the extreme force of nature to eventually take us out? Mortality versus Mother Nature. The limits of humans against the natural world are a final reckoning. It’s happening now. You may not believe it. The imperceptibly slow, deteriorating destruction of time marches forever on its rickety, hellish train tracks. The resulting effects of climate change are staring in your face, visible everywhere you look. Massive surges, multiple recorded mega-massive, extreme weather events—you name it—are custom-ordered disasters, calamities, and catastrophic meteorological mayhem.

Looking back at local weather conditions in my old hometown, the neighborhood of Lauraville-Hamilton in northeast Baltimore was predictably consistent, although stuck in the 1950s. It was old-fashioned, listening to the local radio weather early in the morning, wishing, hoping, and praying for a snow day. Summers were usually hot, spring was cool, fall was damp with a crisp chill, and it snowed almost every winter. The seasons were regularly forecast like a clock. Ma listens to the AM radio broadcast for local city school closings due to hazardous road conditions and snow accumulations.

When we heard that school was closed for the day, I imagined a collective whoopee yell, heard down both sides of the street and around the neighborhood. Kids would be happily sledding today. It was like an episode of “Peanuts” come to life. Charlie Brown and the gang are sledding to the sound of cool jazz. Snowball fights. Snow angels, building igloo forts, making snowmen, ice skating, and sledding—even writing your name in the snow while peeing. Except for ice skating for me, after several failed attempts, I abandoned my dream of being a professional hockey player. Or a competitive skating star in a big-league scandal. Wait, no, that wasn’t me. It was someone else. The blurry picture of a Polaroid past. Someone else’s dreams in a snapshot.

Snow’s the great cleansing equalizer. It covers everything with a flawless, fluffy coat of purity. I’ve said it many times: like two coats of paint, a fresh layer of snow covers a world of sins. It makes everything seem clean again. The illusion of soft, serene beauty glitters in the sun as quiet enchantment envelops and surrounds everything. After the last snowflake falls, you can hear, see, feel, and breathe the icy air. It’s brisk bracing the cold, as lungs fill, exhaling smoky mists’ foggy vapor. Feeling more alive than anything that happened before in your short, sweet life. A baptism in ice. As soon as it stopped snowing, we grabbed our sleds from garages, basements, or under front porches, where they sat like relics of the last snow, neglected and unused.

Dragging our trusty flexible flyer sleds behind us, we headed to Ailsa Ave. and Harford Rd., the closest steep hill in the hood. It was a sled gang of young boys and a few brave girls who came up the hill to hitch a ride down that slippery slope to the bottom. Only to turn around and do it again and again, running up that hill. Sledding until our fingers and toes were freezing. For me, it was the last time I felt the graceful innocence of youthful exuberance. The days were honest and easygoing, playing out like the snows of yesterday's past. That feeling isn’t gone forever, but the innocent, carefree days are over. There were no real responsibilities or obligations to fulfill except homework assignments and what lies you could make up to the priest at the confessional box.

The long and short journey from snowy weather to nowadays will make heads spin. I experienced the most frightening night of my life driving in a snowstorm that was forecasted as rain-only. They were so wrong in calling that forecast; they should’ve all been fired, tarred, feathered, and run out of town on the next train to weatherman hell. For almost three excruciating hours, I was driving in freezing snow, pounding rain, hail, and 50-mile-an-hour wind gusts that made visibility impossible. No one was driving more than 20 or 25 mph tops. Those brave idiots who did attempt to speed up in front of me were sliding off the highway like toy cars and trucks. The three-lane highway was down to one lane; follow the leader. It was like an arctic expedition traveling to home base. I was afraid I might not make it home.

I did live to tell this tale. I don’t know how or why, but by the grace of unfeeling gods and my usual dumb luck, there were powers at play that I had no idea of. A spooky conclusion: feel powerless, helpless, and without any control. Speed isn’t the answer; maybe taking it slow and easy.


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