How Everyday Experiences Build Our Lives

On seeing one good southern snowstorm


The boy and I saw the snowstorm that hit the south this weekend.

It came in from the south on Thursday night and then worked its way across the southeastern states until early Saturday morning, moving from Mississippi through Alabama, Georgia, across the corner of South Carolina and into North Carolina.



You may note that I use the word “saw,” because that’s all it was — more spectacle than experience, and certainly not something we were “in,” let alone “dealt with” or “hit by.” We seent it. And because we’re both from snowy climates (the same snowy climate actually, because we’ve known each other for years and years), seeing — and driving in — snow is no big deal. All things considered, we were rather looking forward to seeing some again.

We were renting a house in the Smoky Mountains for a long weekend getaway — partly to celebrate my birthday; partly Christmas; partly just because — and even though the area typically only sees a light dusting once or twice a year, I’d been hoping we might see snow — to remind us of home, and for the sake of cozying up. And when it really happened, it created an absolutely magical place that we were permitted to romanticize:



There was only one restaurant open the night we got into town (granted, there were only a dozen or so there, total), and it was the perfect spot to watch the snow outside. Meaning: it had burgers. And beer.

And we spent the next three days after that driving around the Smoky Mountains, surveying downed power lines, dodging broken tree limbs, and taking The Boy’s little car through six inches of snow, while also eating our faces off and drinking beer, much of it local breweries’ winter and Christmas stuff, which I love. But mostly, we spent the weekend on vacation, and happy, and quite content in the little bubble of romanticizing snow — and each other.

And while we were more or less enjoying it, celebrating in seeing some good snowfall that reminded us both of home, not everyone was sharing the same experience.

Snow brings out a lot in people.

Fear

Look, I don’t have to tell you because by now everybody knows, but it’s worth emphasizing: people in the south freak out when it “snows.” I use quotation marks because they’ll call any technicality (and amount) of frozen precipitation “snow,” responding to a light dusting in a way northerners reserve only for serious storms. The accumulation policy for “snow day” school closings, for example, is — literally — 0.1 inches. And grown ass adults go home early from work — or stay home — before the first flake even hits the ground.

Most people freak out while driving, some abandoning their cars parked on the sides (or sometimes in the middle) of the road. That, or causing pileups such as this:

Raleigh, North Carolina — 2014

And if they’re not freaking out while actually driving, they’re utterly and irrevocably freaking out about other people driving, saying things like,

“I don’t give a flying fuck where you were born! I don’t care that you drove through blizzards. I don’t care that there isn’t snow coated interstates. They don’t plow any fucking roads but those stupid interstates! These people, they don’t know how to drive in this slop. There isn’t endless salt piles at every intersection, and they call snow plow ‘scrapers.’ Scrapers? Srsly, bro. Some counties have like three snow plows. Three, seriously bro!”

And while people in the south do occasionally react so poorly that it becomes a life risk, the southerners tend to react like it’s not about them:

“All you Northerners laughing and carrying on about our closed schools. Ya, know what? Them kids are at home, alive, happy. Not stuck in a dumb school bus, on some random slushy mountain curve, praying for their life. That is why they stay home.”

Alive? I’m not even sure what they think happens up north. Do they think school buses full of kids die every time it snows? Do they think they have giant school bus bobsleds? I’m not sure.

For them, it’s only scary and bad:

“Last night there wasn’t going to be snow! When my eye popped open to inches being predicted for today, and the whole script had been flipped, I knew it was not going to be a happy ending… Bad ending all around.”

And, I mean, that’s just so thoroughly emotion-laden that I’m pretty sure we’re not even talking about snow any more.

The people down here are so horror-consumed they can’t function — even those who are “from” or have “lived” “in the north.” You can tell who’s actually experienced snow before and who has no idea what’s going on the minute the latter scorn at the former and scowl,

“Don’t be a fucking hero.”

And the rest of us are like “what? That’s literally not what this was about.” We’re not trying to “be a hero” and we’re not even sure what that means in this scenario. Just trying to get around here, bud.

And for a lighter note, let’s cut back to those kids…

Excitement

Kids, mostly, tbh.

We passed a spectacular sledding hill, the likes of which we rarely see around the bigger southern city where we actually live, and he slowed the car while we both gawked, “what a great sledding hill!” We didn’t have winter gear with us, otherwise I’m sure we would’ve been down for a run or two.

And between sledding hills and snow days — and later on, perhaps the buzz of testing your four-wheel-drive vehicle in the snowbanks, or the thrill of cutting through fresh powder (or groomed trails; no one’s judging) by ski or snowboard.

Nostalgia

For everyone who once was a kid and saw a proper snow storm, seeing snow again triggers a sweet, deep reaction.

It’s the reason we like white Christmases, the reason we make snowmen and probably the reason we take our kids sledding even when we ourselves just stand, hands and feet freezing, at the top of the hill. Every time it snows reminds us of every other time it snowed, and I guess the best we can hope for is to have more good memories than bad.

Love

It snowed in Mexico for the first time in twenty years, and I heard that one man there made a snowman on his mother’s grave, fulfilling a promise that one day, when it snowed, they’d make one together.

I think a lot of love can be proven — or disproven —in the snow.

Like whether or not a loved one will spend the night to avoid the storm, or whether he or she will cut across town early to make it to you before it hits. Whether or not a loved one tells you to stay home, safely out of the storm, because they care more about your safety than spending time with you.

A loved one scraping your car off, or warming your boots, or shoveling the driveway because you hate it.

Or maybe a loved one getting up in the middle of the night to pile the single spare blanket — and all of the towels they could find — on top of your sleeping body, without you waking, because a downed tree took the power and heat out, and they woke up to find the poorly insulated house quickly dropping in degrees. And then slipping quietly back in bed with you to keep you warm — without waking. All of this being precisely what The Boy did when the power (and heat, and water, because it was a pump) went out the first night we were at the cabin we rented.

Or little things like getting an incredible shot the day after the big southern snow:


It’s going on our first Christmas card, which will be sent, in the very least, to each of our mothers.

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