It’s that wonderful time of year when everyone begins to think about snow, holly, Christmas trees, etc. The Christians celebrate Christmas, the Jews celebrate Hanukkah, and add a few extra holidays in there such as Kwanzaa, Yule, and also the winter solstice. It doesn’t really matter what anyone celebrates but the one thing that all have in common in the northern hemisphere and far enough North is the concept of cold temperatures and snow. We’ve even have songs about snow such as White Christmas, Let it Snow, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, and of course Jingle Bells.
In the last few years, I’ve not even bothered with a Christmas tree. Bah humbug, maybe, but not really. It’s just not worth it for me. Instead I enjoy the trees that my girls put up and decorate. They’ve taken over Christmas Eve dinners. Usually they take turns as to which one will host it. All of the fun and none of the work, the holiday has become easy for me. But this year my one daughter is considering doing something a little different. She wants to experience a little holiday fun in the Big Apple. Just how does she plan on getting there? Oh, she’s driving.
Honey, we live in Virginia. We might get a snowstorm and a couple of inches can be crippling in this area. You’re talking about going further north into Yankee land. They get snow.
She tried very hard to assure me that she knows how to drive in snow. Driving in snow is not really a big problem – it’s snow and snow in Virginia is the same white stuff in Pennsylvania or New York. Except in Virginia, we measure it in small increments. We get two and a half inches. Notice the half inch? They will close down school for a half inch of snow. When you travel North into Yankee Land, snow is measured in feet.
My daughter’s little sports car is adorable, but I don’t think she’s considered snow deep enough to cover her car.
When I was seventeen, I decided to go visit my girlfriend in Pennsylvania. After dinner, I made quick phone to her house, and I was on my way. When I left the island where I was living in New Jersey, the only thing predicted was possible rain. It was normally a few hours drive to my friend’s house. I hadn’t been on the road but maybe twenty minutes when it began to rain. It continued to rain, but then I noticed the rain was getting a little bit icy. I crossed the bridge into Philadelphia and directly into falling snow. From that point forward, I crawled. It should have been just a short ride. Hours later and well after midnight, I finally made it to my girlfriend’s house. No cell phones in those days to call ahead and say hey I’m on the road. I made it and drove down their long driveway to a darkened house. The entire family assumed, because it was snowing, that I would have never attempted that trip. Wrong!
But with all the normal confidence of going to a house that I’d gone to for years that was as much my home and sometimes felt more like home then my own home, I merely found be magical way into a house that was locked with a huge security system. I left my car in the driveway because no one left room for my little car in the garage, which just meant my girlfriend’s mom took up a whole lot of parking space in garage. Yes, we used to tease her. She was lost without valet parking. How she could manage to take up at least two and sometimes as much as three parking spaces in the garage was beyond me. It’s probably why that house had such a huge garage. But if they knew I was coming, her dad always made sure I had plenty of room on his side where he parked his car. No such luck on that cold night. I left my car in the driveway, came in through the mud room, and my little excursion outside to sneak into their house without setting off all the alarms had left me coated in a layer of snow. I took my coat off and hung it over something in the mudroom knowing I would leave a puddle of melted snow under it and I’d probably hear about it in the morning. Then I quietly tiptoed upstairs and climbed into the bed that I always used. And after a very long grueling drive, it didn’t take me but a few seconds to go to sleep. Then I heard my name being called. I was always raised to believe if my father said something, I needed to jump and as quickly as possible. My girlfriend’s father made my father seem like a pussycat. There were actually several reasons for that partly because my father knew her father from the time he was a little boy and my girlfriend’s father was he a grown man compare to my father. I think he was about 15 years older. But his wife was quite a bit younger than he was and I will tell you that story another day. So when he called, I rose off that bed came flying down the stairs. He looked at me standing there in my pajamas and said I saw your coat so where is your car? I simply replied it’s in the driveway. He told me to go find it. This man was probably six-six or six-seven and had a very deep baritone voice, so as a teen, he could be a little frightening. (Another words, I didn’t play around, although he was always nice to me and everyone else. I was probably just as much a daughter to him as his own daughter.) Back up the stairs I flew and by then my friend was awake. We pulled on our jeans, but I had come without any boots. So I borrowed her mother’s boots because we were about the same size.
My car was a little MG Midget. Very cute and very tiny, and it was a convertible with a soft top, meaning it had black canvas for a roof. My friend and I had to walk out from the mudroom because the snow is too deep to try to get onto it from the garage door area. But the mudroom exit meant I could just skip the steps down to a walkway and walk across the snow I really figured I’d find my car easily except there wasn’t even a lump in the snow to give any indication where my car was parked. My girlfriend and I went out to approximately the area where I thought I parked my car. We got on our bellies and began to sweep snow away,and we had to try to figure out how far down to sweep the snow because we didn’t want to put a foot through the roof. It took a while, swimming the breaststroke on top of the snow, but we eventually found my car. Once we had done that, her father could take his big Jeep out with a plow on the front and clear the driveway.
The weekend that had started as a nightmare of a drive and then a lost vehicle under the snow, actually turned into one of those magnificent memories of playing in the snow. We took the horses out, staying mostly to the wooded areas. We rode for hours. Snow has a way of making the world very quiet. (Fortunately, I always had a pair of riding boots at her house.)
Then that night we had more snow followed by an ice storm. Not a little ice – a whole lot of ice. It knocked the power out. Her family had a generator, but it didn’t power everything. We didn’t care. For us it was an adventure, and we had fun. Kerosene lamps sat in the main room downstairs. We carried candles upstairs when we headed to bed. The following morning, we put on ice skates and we ice skated over fields and meadows. At seventeen and eighteen, we were old enough that no one said come in, you’ve been out there too long. We did what we pleased.
We traded ice skates for boots. We did some cross country skiing. We’d come in long enough to drink coffee or hot chocolate. We’d grab something yummy from the refrigerator (powered by generator) and go back out again. Just for fun, we built an igloo in the front yard. We couldn’t stand up in it, maybe somebody’s five-year-old could, but we could crawl around in it. We washed it down in water so that it would freeze. I think the igloo probably lasted until April.
The ice had taken down the phone lines and I couldn’t even call home to alert my mom that I would not be home. That also meant I would not be in school on Monday morning because I couldn’t get away from where I was.
No matter what, the horses had to be cared for and fed. Once we had the ice, we couldn’t go riding, as it would have been too dangerous for the horses. They had their heavy blankets and we gave them extra oats and sneaked a few carrots and apples to them.
The family dog was almost as old as we were and she couldn’t stay out very long with us, but we let her come, and then we put her back in the house while we wandered hill and dale.
I remember such a storm as a child and my dad and I went around the neighborhood and collected people and brought them to our house. We had a huge fireplace and Mom had the ability to cook over that fireplace. Our house became a madhouse of people and children, and although I had a chance to go outside and play, it was not the same. The ten years difference between those storms was the difference between being trapped inside and having total freedom.
Never once have my children ever experienced anything like that. The area in Virginia where we live does not get that kind of snow. My girls cannot imagine ice skating across fields. But now I’m listening to a daughter who’s talking about heading north, because she knows how to drive in snow. I haven’t had to drive in snow, well in deep snow, probably since I was seventeen. But I two feet of snow on the ground and more snow falling.
I wonder if my daughter even knows she needs to carry a shovel, sand, etc in her car, a blanket for each of us, and I think we will need lots of chocolate. We still haven’t decided, but I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll go north and we’ll have fun. With a little luck, the really heavy snows will stay away until at least until Christmas Eve and by then we will have returned home.