As I sorted birds in the snow photos today I thought of memories entangled with snow.
My earliest snow memories are that of a little girl in a giant snow suit being pulled in a sled by her mother down the middle of a deserted snow-filled street in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. That was the Christmas Eve snow of 1966. I have another memory of a big snow around 1969.
I remember these snows in particular because the city stood still, covered by a cold white blanket. And as a small child, I remember the still of the city, the blinding bright white light of a winter’s sun on the snow. I remember sledding as a small child around Carpenter’s Hall.
I have mental snap shots of other snow storms as I grew up. When we first moved to the Main Line when I was 11 turning 12 we lived in Gladwyne at first across from Mr. Gwinn. His nickname was “The Squire”. Snow then meant a sleigh pulled by his horses.
Snow then meant sledding down marvelous hills around Rose Glen Road and other places in Gladwyne before hills, fields, and genteel old houses made way for McMansions and way too much infill development.
Snow meant sleigh rides with Mr. Gwinn if there was enough snow. When there was enough snow, Mr. Gwinn’s groom (I think his name was Edward) and he would open the big doors to where the carriages, carts, and sleighs were stored and out would come the sleigh. The horses would get decked out with sleigh bells, and you could literally hear the sounds of sleigh bells through out Gladwyne. It was a truly Currier and Ives moment and such a happy sound. Jingle, jingle, jingle mixed with the sounds of horses hooves on a snowy road. A muffled clop, clop, clop.
My mother who does not have a comfort level with horses recalls a sleigh ride she and another neighbor were invited on where Mr. Gwinn took them out on the sleigh and then stopped at another neighbor’s house and handed them the reins while he ducked inside for a drink to warm himself up while they were outside!
Another snow memory was the big storm of 1996 that dumped over 30 inches on the Philadelphia area. That was a crazy amount of snow that was followed by a lot of rain not so long after. I remember having to dig paths on the driveway just so the dog could have a place to relieve himself. I remember when the rain came so many people getting flooded basements due to the combination of snow, melting snow, and rain. This snow surpassed the winter of 1987, which also had one of those snow walloping storms .
I don’t remember other winters with great distinction until the First Friday in February, 2010. That was the night the first blizzard of 2010 began and also the night my entire life changed.
I had been working on a non-profit event with my friend Sherry and given all the weather reports we cancelled our Friday, February 5th event. My then fiancé and I decided to have a snow night dinner in Ardmore with two other couples.
It had started to snow when we went to Ardmore, and we stopped first at the state store for a bottle of wine. The restaurant was a BYOB. It’s weird what you remember, but I remember of all the weird things that former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil was in the state store doing a wine tasting of his vineyard’s wines.
I remember dinner being nice, and going outside and the snow was coming down fast and furious. There was already a few inches on the ground when we exited the restaurant. What I remember next is the contrast of the quiet whooshy sound of falling snow and my ex fiancé flipping out on me in the parking lot because I opened the car window of his car while he was cleaning snow off the car. Mind you he drove a Mazda, not a Benz.
I remember the lights of Lancaster Avenue and the falling snow and cars sliding all over as we drove home. As we drove home, he screamed at me most of the way home and I remember the combination of all of that being a bit frightening. I also remember a passing thought of “I can’t do this anymore.” I got out of the car in my driveway, and as I shut the car door he took off. It was in that blizzard I was literally abandoned with his dying dog. It was sort of a Lifetime TV moment. Only it was my life and slightly surreal when it happened.
It was an odd and hard thing to have happen, but what do you do? You change the locks and move on. And you honor the last few months of a very old dog’s life. Months later a friend said to me that God had done a lift out. She was so right.
Life goes on and you move forward. Then came December, 2010. My brother in law died on December 22, 2010 of peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer of the abdominal lining. He had been diagnosed barely 3 1/2 weeks earlier. My sister was suddenly a young widow with two kids.
In the midst of planning the funeral came the blizzard of December, 2010 that crippled New York City. I remember walking up Park Avenue on the Upper East Side the morning the snow stopped. Instead of being filled with multiple lanes of cars on both sides, the avenue was snow filled, not plowed and people like myself walked in the middle of a temporarily car and bus deserted New York City street. And it was quiet. New York City was silent in the snow.
It was the craziest feeling being able to stroll in the middle of a snow clogged Park Avenue . The weird juxtaposition of knowing you were on one of the busiest streets of one of the most populated cities, yet there I was strolling like it was a country road. I remember looking up at all the snow-laden buildings that create that multi-billion dollar canyon of Park Avenue. The buildings are so large, and humans so small. It’s funny but for a moment I felt like that little child I once was being pulled on a sled by my mother.
It’s now 2014, and it is shaping up to be another very snowy winter. But as the snow storms change and the years pass, my life is so vastly different from those blizzards that framed 2010.
As I looked outside this morning to the frozen landscape with ( to me ) the feel of the tundra (well it was a balmy 2 or 3 degrees this morning for a good while), I thought of snow storms past. Life defining weather moments ……all tied to snow oddly enough. Memories covering a wide spectrum of emotions in different times.
But today I as I took my snowy walk down memory lane, I smiled. I am where I am supposed to be with whom I am supposed to be. At home in the snow, remembering snow storms past and making new memories with my own family.
Life is full of all sorts of experiences. It’s what you do with them I suppose that makes the difference.