Twenty-three inches of snow ago, we were feeling pretty smug. We were proud that we didn’t waste money on a January vacation to the Riviera Maya like some of our friends did. We were glad we didn’t prepay for discount lift tickets at Jack Frost, whose ski trails were bare. We wondered whether anyone was buying the marked-down mittens and scarves at the post-Christmas sale when it was 70 degrees outside. We felt bad for the kids who wouldn’t have a snow day and the TV weather anchors who had to fake enthusiasm for a seven-day forecast of nothing but mid-40s temperatures and gray skies.
We thought winter would never come, that it would be like a magical fairy tale: We would wake up one day, after a few months of mild weather, and it would be April. All the cherry trees that prematurely flowered, the daffodils that poked up tenuous shoots, and the fat birds that just gave up trying to fly south because it wasn’t that cold anyway would be proven right. We had just skipped over winter.
Whenever we selfishly felt happy for the unseasonable warmth, we also had a pang of guilt about the polar bears and the shrinking ice caps. We would worry about the ecologically damaged world we are leaving for our children, but we enjoyed running errands in just a sweater.
We read the Jan. 19 Inquirer article reporting that 2015 “was by far the hottest year in 136 years of record keeping. For the most part, scientists blamed manmade global warming, with a boost from El Niño.”
This was all before our big snow.
Like most people on the East Coast, we were ready. We moved the shovels from the garage to the back door. Even though we have food stockpiled in our pantries that could take us through any emergency, we joined the throngs of neighbors at the supermarket to buy bagels, potato chips, and a hunk of brie. Then it started to snow and blow, and it kept up for a day.
We monitored the snowfall on the backyard patio table. We had never put it away because we knew that winter wasn’t coming this year. Until last weekend, it stood dry and lonely. As the snow fell, the table’s unobstructed, flat surface became a reliable measuring spot for the blizzard. The more than two feet of snow turned it into a vast white banquet tablecloth. Its chairs became large, marshmallow lumps.
As the snow fell, we hunkered down inside, making pots of soup and chili and using up the leftover bananas to make banana bread. We read books, we watched TV, and we knitted three more balls of yarn on the huge fuzzy afghan. We uploaded the photos from last year’s vacation, deleted 1,003 emails, and cleaned out the kitchen junk drawer. We drank three bottles of wine and binge-watched the first season of Fargo.
As the snow piled up on Saturday, we scrolled through Facebook photos of kids who were excited to play in the snow and of tiny dogs that had to go out even though the snow was over their heads. This was the rare time when we were glad to have neither kids nor dogs begging us to go out.
By Sunday, the snow had stopped. We ventured outside to offer moral support to our husbands’ efforts to shovel the driveway. We unburied the cars and started the engines. We admired our neighbor’s new snow blower, bought when the blizzard was first forecast. We had cabin fever, and by 1 p.m., we ventured to the supermarket, just to have somewhere to go, but it was cleaned out of all the good snacks.
TV weather people were happy to report that last weekend’s storm dropped a season’s worth of snow in two days. We weren’t happy, but we did enjoy staying in our pjs and having a good excuse not to leave the house.
Maybe we’re just optimists, but we believe that last weekend’s snow was just a blip on the weather calendar, that it is not the start of a long, cold winter. The robin perched on the huge snow bank and the budding pussy willow bush are telling us that spring is right around the corner. We’re certain that in a few days, Punxsutawney Phil will agree with us, too.
This article appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday, January 29, 2016.