There’s a running joke in places that only occasionally get snow that local meteorologists will sometimes forecast an impending blizzard when stores are overstocked on bread, eggs, milk, and toilet paper, because the mere mention of the word “snow” will send hordes to the groceries to stock up on these necessities. This is, of course, because the only way to get through the forty-eight hours, at most, that the roads will be impassable is with French toast served on a soft bed of two-ply.
I was reminded of this recently when we had a few bouts of relatively warm rainy days followed by dry, sunny, extremely cold days and lots of people commented that it was lucky the rain and cold hadn’t coincided because if they had we’d have had snow. And that reminded me of a time back when I was in eighth grade and over at a friend’s house one Sunday night. It started to snow, and snow heavily. We both got really excited because this snow seemed certain to cancel school so we’d have at least a three day weekend, even though having Monday off is the worst way to have a three-day weekend because all it really does is push the misery of starting the week into Tuesday, so you can’t really enjoy Sunday or the Monday off. The ideal three-day weekend starts on Friday, although now that I think about it the worst kind of three-day weekend really would be to have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off, but that’s another story. My friend lived at the bottom of a hill and he and I watched cars slide and skid up and down the road, probably either going to or returning from the nearest grocery and loaded up with the essentials. When it was time to go I trudged home through Lapland, and I stayed up late because the snow was falling hot and heavy, or rather freezing and heavy, and there was no way there’d be school in the morning.
There was school in the morning.
I had to get up at the usual time. There was still snow on the grass and piled into drifts under trees but the streets were warm enough to be completely clear. I was somehow half-conscious and furious at the same time as I worked through a breakfast of French toast on damp toilet paper. I’m not sure why I was so upset. Whatever homework I’d gotten over the weekend was done, there were no tests, and eighth grade wasn’t the best year of my school career but it wasn’t the worst either. I just felt I’d been promised something only to have it yanked away from me, but on the bright side, I thought, it couldn’t get any worse.
It got worse.
I was in math class, around 9:30 in the morning, when it started snowing again. It wasn’t just snowing, either. This was a freak blizzard. Whorls and swirls of snow in clumps the size of my fist thumped the windows, taunting me. Under normal conditions I could walk home from school but even if we could get the doors open in the face of the avalanche there’d be no walking home in this. So I got ready to walk home. I didn’t care that I’d likely be found like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, my frozen body somewhere in the woods halfway between school and home. My grandfather would tell stories of having to walk uphill both ways in the snow to school, and if he’d done it I figured so could I, and in fact there was a large hill between my house and the school that rose up sharply on one side and then descended just as sharply on the other, so going uphill both ways didn’t seem that ridiculous. And yet the school day dragged on as usual while the storm outside raged. There were no preparations for departure, no buses lining up to take those unlucky enough to live beyond walking distance. We weren’t, as had happened in previous years when rising snow shortened the school day, huddled into a single room to keep warm and watch TV and, if it came to it, resort to cannibalism like the Donner Party.
In fact by noon the snow came to an end. The clouds parted and the sun came out, and when it was time to go home, at the usual time, I slogged trough mud, not snow. How had they known? What miracle allowed the meteorologists to see that this would not last? The only thing I can figure is the grocery stores were running low on bread, milk, eggs, and toilet paper.