1979. The year still sends chills down my spine. 1979. I was learning to play the piano.
It only took a year to learn Star Wars (no one knew then I was dyslexic). I tried my hand at magic — the show kind– at Barry’s Magic Shop. I was 11 years old.
My sister’s science teacher was Mr. Bowls.
Mr. Bowls had one major talent: he used science to predict the weather. His predictions were legendary among students — if he said “snow”, not only did students not study, teachers didn’t even ditto machine the test.
The storm was approaching, and the National Weather Service said, “one to two inches” when you dialed weather (for .25) on the phone.
Mr. Bowls’s prediction was more detailed. “If,” he told my sister’s class, “we receive more than two inches, we will get one of the largest snow storms in modern history, between 12 and 24 inches, possibly more.”
The flakes were falling fat and thick as mom and I drove home from piano lessons on Flower Avenue. The sky was stone grey, and the snow rapidly accumulated on the grass. By the time we reached home, an inch had piled up. By the time we walked through the front door, another quarter fell. To an eleven year old, it was magic.
My sister, then 14, met us at the door. My mom asked her Mr. Bowls’ prediction. My sister stammered it out in barely masked excitement.
“But we’ve already gotten two inches!” I said.
“Exactly!” Responded my sister, arms folded across her chest and looking like Hermione Grainger from Harry Potter (who would have to wait nearly 35 years to come into existence). (My sister, by the way, is as smart as Hermione.)
It snowed all the rest of the day. Toward evening, the flakes pounded ever harder. Suddenly, the sky rumbled with thunder, and the night’s blackness deepened. Even with the back patio’s two headed motion light turned on, we couldn’t see more than a few inches. The thunder spooked me: as an 11 year old, who knew it could thunder AND snow?
Finally, we all decided to go to bed (or at least, that’s where my memory ends) until the next morning.
I woke. The sun supernaturally bright pouring in my bedroom window. My room was on the second floor, the large window usually partially blocked by the tops of the huge Pyrocantha bushes planted below. On this morning, nothing blocked the window. When I looked out, the world was flat and smooth. The bushes were bowed low, white lumps against a flat, pristine surface.
Except, where we lived wasn’t flat. Where we lived, driveways were carved between two hills at everyone’s house, and the land gently rolled through the neighborhood. But not on this morning. This morning, the world was flat. Level.
The cars in those driveways, nestled between the little hills? Totally covered. Up to their roofs. Over their tops, even. Buried, like a fly in amber.
I went down to the dining room sliding glass door, where we’d looked out the night before at the snow falling in the bright anti-burglar light.
You couldn’t see out, onto the patio. A huge drift covered the door, up to the roof’s rafters. From my perspective, it was a wall of snow.
The outdoor summer grill, a four legged flat topped model where we always took the family’s official snow total, was gone. Everything was gone. Everything was white.
I turned from the plate glass door, and went to wake my mom up.
“How many inches are on the grill?” She asked, sleepily.
“Mom, there is no grill.”
“What do you mean, ‘there is no grill’?” She asked, now wide awake.
“I mean, the grill is buried. In fact, the snow is up to the rafters of the second floor.”
She sprung from bed.
**** That snowstorm hit on a Monday or Tuesday night. School was cancelled for an entire week after that — the school systems not even waiting until morning to cancel class, they’d announce it about lunch time the day prior.
People wore their pajama bottoms under their clothes. I wore my pajama bottoms under my clothes, Star Wars waist band poking up under the lip of my jeans.
We’d dig out the driveway, only to have the howling winds blow it shut the next day. The mounds of snow covered mailboxes, trees, bushes, stumps.
My sister and I dug a maze in the back yard — a snow maze, the walls reaching well over our heads. It’s a wonder we weren’t killed.
***** That was the snowstorm to beat all snowstorms. I’m 45? 46? Whatever. That snowstorm, when I was eleven, is what I measure all other storms against.
And never — never — has anything ever measured close. This morning there were six inches on my car’s roof. I don’t have a grill; I live in a condo. Everything unimportant was immediately cancelled. The travel God’s will have to get me back another day: I don’t fly out until Tuesday.
I sat in front of my back, second floor window, overlooking the woods, sipping a cup of coffee. A half dozen cardinals poked in the snow.
Sigh. Time to play Star Wars.
The view from my Living Room window (where I always eat my morning oatmeal and drink my third cup of coffee)