As You Like It: Snowshoeing in the Streets


What a day! The sun is out, no clouds, no wind, 50 degrees. And it’s February. This is my idea of a winter that I can live with. For years I’ve said to anyone who will listen, “I wouldn’t mind the winter so much if there was no snow and the temperature stayed in the 50s.” A pipe dream for Massachusetts, but this year it’s a pipe dream come true. This morning, even though I shivered at the train station, I knew that on my way home I would no longer need my scarf, but my sunglasses instead.

Today has been an easy day. I’ve accomplished everything on my to-do list, and a few people canceled their appointments, leaving me breathing room. The community center office upstairs is quiet and no one has rushed into my office with a crisis.

Yet for some reason the date seems familiar. The Super Bowl is over, Valentine’s Day isn’t here yet, it isn’t anybody’s birthday that I can think of, so why does this date refuse to leave the edges of my mind? And then on the internet I see a small story at the bottom about the blizzard of ’78.

The small blurb informs me that 34 years ago today, the heavens dropped 27 inches of snow on Boston and the rest of New England. On a beautiful day like this it’s hard to imagine being buried in over two feet of snow — but we were. Thirty-four years ago I couldn’t push open our front door and could barely see out of our second story apartment window. I still remember the excitement of having work canceled, classes canceled, usual life canceled because of a relentless snowfall that showed no inclination of stopping anytime soon.

After listening to Governor Michael Dukakis reassure us that even in this state of emergency we would all be fine if we just stayed off the roads, we headed across the way to a state-of-emergency party that had just been called by a neighbor that we had never met but were about to.

Today, old-lady me would be staring nervously out of the window, checking to see if we were stocked up on batteries, candles and food, and praying to the electricity gods to stay put, stay on. I would imagine freezing to death on the couch, or starving to death in the kitchen, or … you get the picture. Thirty-four years ago I simply gazed out dreamily, happy to be with Steve, never even imagining that this would be anything but some fantastic experience that we would enjoy together.

I sit here in my office knowing that it all happened to me, but feeling like it’s a fairy tale that someone has told me that I’m only just remembering. That seems to be happening more and more lately — feeling that the events of my past life are only fairy stories and not my history. Most are vague and faded like the photographs on my wall that I’m having restored. Maybe I can ask the camera store if they can work on my memories as well.

I can clearly see us tramping off for groceries to the nearest STAR Market, but can barely remember what else we did with our days. And as our days turned into a week, while the plows worked to unearth us from our snow castles, I remember feeling bored, but not bored enough to want to return to real life. It was too much fun staying home playing with friends, building snowmen, even digging each other’s cars out from under mountains.

Even as the stories began drifting in about people being stranded, people unable to get home, people with no power for days, people dying in the snow banks, we somehow never worried that any of that would happen to us. We were too young to think that this would be something other than a lark. How I miss that girl! During our latest Halloween snowstorm I spent the entire day worrying about the really important things in life, like how would I ever be able to go to work unless I dried my hair, and how could I dry my hair without a hairdryer?

Is this what growing older is about? A double whammy of losing your memories and fearing life? In ’78 I saw people snowshoeing on the roads and wanted to rush out and join them. Now I gaze out of the window and feel old and too likely to break a leg if I dared try.

During snowstorms I no longer party or recall past parties; instead I watch our trees and wonder which one will break and land on the roof. I watch the driveway and worry about when the plow guy will come. I watch the electric lines and will them to stay up. I watch and worry and miss seeing what is right in front of my eyes — a life that should be lived in sharp Crayola hues and not worried to death.

Today, on this sunshine-filled day, I have nothing to worry about. I will get up in a few minutes and enjoy my walk to the station in balmy February weather. But there is snow in the forecast for Saturday. Maybe I should go out and get myself some snowshoes before I remember to be afraid. And then I should go out and find some new memories.

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avatar Posted by on Feb 15 2012. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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