Monday, January 16, 2012
I want a blizzard. Is that so wrong?
I want a blizzard. The kind that Laura and Mary were stuck in in Little Town on the Prairie and had to find their way from the school to their house by bumping into buildings and holding on to people's clotheslines.
Or the kind that I witnessed as a kid in the '70s -- the kind that forced grownups to ride snowmobiles down to the local Li'l Red Barn to purchase enough Spaghetti-Os and Hi-C to get their kids through the subsequent couple of days.
What has happened to Des Moines? Whatever your thoughts on global warming happen to be, you have to admit winters here have changed.
Now, rest assured I don't want to see a blizzard hurt or kill people or cause senior citizens to lose their heat; I'm taking for granted that everyone will be safe when I tell you that I sincerely want some weather drama.
When I was in elementary school, winter began in October and ended in April. We trick-or-treated in snow boots, and sometimes the weather was too precarious for us to attend midnight Mass on Christmas. We walked from the school parking lot into the building on top of a snowpack that reached the middle of the front door.
If Easter came early, we hunted eggs under a dusting of snow. KRNT weather bulletins were a seasonal staple -- I can still hear the ominous piano music that announced them -- and our school calendars typically extended far into June because we had to make up missed snow days.
As my 14-year-old stepson pointed out the other day, school hasn't been called off even once this winter. That means this year's kindergarten students have no idea what it feels like to be given the gift of unexpected downtime -- to peel off their parkas and hunker down in front of the TV with a mug of cocoa, a blanket and all the cartoons they can handle.
Snow days at my house meant endless games of Hi Ho Cherry-O, Hands Down or Sorry. Once the hard snowfall had ceased, we'd venture into the back yard or to a neighbor's house with our aluminum saucers; someone, usually one of the older boys, would bring a sheet of waxed paper to rub on the bottom of the sleds to encourage warp-speed travel. After a while, we'd grow tired of wet socks and wet mittens and head back in the house for more cocoa, and we'd dry off to the soothing tones of Paul Rhodes -- the TV anchor, not the football coach -- and Russ VanDyke telling us whether school likely would be canceled the next day as well.
Granted, snow days often mean something different now; with most parents working full-time, kids aren't able to stay home, and employers aren't likely to close their doors because of a little inclement weather. But still, an unexpected day at daycare is something different and unexpected and probably generates a little excitement; after all, it means more playtime and less desk time, and no matter how old you are, that's got to be a good thing.
Given today's technology, even the worst blizzard isn't as likely as it once was to shut down the whole city; road crews spread salt beforehand so everything melts quickly and people can head back downtown.
But still, every predicted snowfall brings with it the promise that life as we know it might slow down for a while. Deep down, that's really what I'm wanting. I'm not much of a sledder these days, but I can find other ways to play; hanging out with the dog and watching bad TV in my bathrobe comes to mind.
I'm watching CNN as I write this, and one of the anchors just said the entire top half of the United States will be blanketed by snow this week. Could we be so lucky? The most likely scenario is that the big stuff will miss us, skittering past as it heads to the Quad Cities or Chicago.
But somewhere on the top shelf of my closet, I have some woolen mittens, and I know where my boots are. It may be mid-January, but the temperatures are cold and the ground is frozen. I may be about 40 years past saucers and cocoa, but it's not too late to dream.