I have forever been a snowgirl, but when they predicted another snowfall for today, I felt the weariness grow heavy in my chest. I had to travel to my 95-year-old dad’s place because his nurse from the VA was making his monthly visit, and I didn’t want to get caught slipping and sliding in my new car. When did I become such a snow baby, rejecting the beauty and thinking only of my convenience and safety?
This afternoon after arriving safely back at home, I decided to research big snowstorms in Chi-town. I remembered a big one when I was in 7th grade; I thought it occurred in March because I remembered it was after a school vacation, but I was wrong about the date; it happened in January after Christmas vacation (yes, that is what we called it back then, not Winter break). I was so glad to get back to school because I could once again gaze at my crush, the guy that every girl at Emerson Jr. High oogled over.
The snow began to fall at 5 am. My dad was off to work in his car, which he took to the train station to get to the loop. We left for school in our quilted nylon jackets, rubber boots, and snow pants. I know, I know– my dress and coat always looked ridiculous with the bulky snow pants under. I so wanted new boots with fur on the inside, but nooo– rubber boots on top of my loafers were my mother’s preference; they were called galoshes. I did rock my fake-fur, white hat that had pom-pom balls attached to the ties. It always reminded me of a Hostess snack cake called a Sno ball (a small cake covered in marshmallow adorned with coconut crumbs). But that day, I remember feeling grateful that my mom insisted on the winter gear, even though a few days earlier it had been a record 65 degrees in the Windy City.
We made it through the blizzard that Wednesday morning, and I was able to get a glimpse of my crush 1st hour and then 9th at a distance between the netting in gym class. I was just the skinny geek that he occasionally caught staring at his muscular biceps in his gym uniform. After school, we trudged home in the drifts that were already higher than our boots. I didn’t know it, but I wouldn’t see my crush again until the following week. In the 60’s school never was canceled because if busses and trains were working, they figured our legs could make it a mile at the very least. But this snow was very different and accumulated fast.
My dad did make it via the train out to the burbs, but one and only car was buried up to the roof when he got to Edison Park. I do remember my mom pacing that night. My dad called before he left to tell her he’d walk, which he liked to do occasionally. But that night, he didn’t get home until about 10 pm. Of course, my dad tried helping an insane driver get out of a snowdrift. She abandoned her car like the thousands of other drivers and truckers on the city streets. When I think about the fear that my mom endured that night, my stomach gets upset; a cell phone sure would have been handy.
By Friday morning, our suburb and Chicago stood still for the first time in many years. Neighbor helped neighbor with shovels. The article I just read told of pregnant women being taken to the hospitals on sleds, bulldozers, and snowplows to give birth. We took our sleds to Jewel to get milk, eggs, bread, and, you guessed it— toilet paper, of course. Helicopters brought medical supplies to hospitals, and Dr.’s and nurses stayed and fought sleepiness and fatigue to render care. Hmm…this story is starting to feel eerily familiar.
Looting and anger boiled up in the poorest sections of our city. Folks were getting desperate and probably pretty hungry. Chicago didn’t have enough equipment to remove snow, and trucks came from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan to help our city. O’Hare finally opened after five days allowing weary travelers to get home to their families. By the time the pandemic, oops, the storm, was cleaned up, 60 people had lost their lives and an estimated $150 million in business losses. People compared the snow disaster to the Chicago Fire… until now. Everything pales in comparison to this worldwide year-long nightmare.
And my memories are of some irritation at my school closing, remembering the sleds to the grocery, my bickering sisters, and my mom and dad who could get through any storm together. This has been a year of such pain and sadness, but thanks to modern technology, we could at least glimpse those we love on our little and large screens. We had access to the best minds in the world, giving us up-to-date advice in real-time. And where would our country be without our medical community risking their lives every day to care for us and those we love?
As my beloved church begins to open (masks, social distance, of course), as Dave gets his final vaccine next week, as I recover from a severe sinus infection, as I finish up this post, I feel the slow spreading of joy from my fingers to my toes.
I can take this measly little snow and the last throes of this scourge in our world. I will continue to trust in God.
He’s got this.
He’s got us in the palm of his hand. The crocus is blooming still in my yard, And Spring will soon light up Chicago.