Growing up in the northeast I’ve seen all types of winters. From mild winters where southern breezes blew unfrozen dirt on the side of the road into small spinning cyclones to winters of relentless snow storms and brutally cold temperatures that assaulted my exposed skin and left red blotches that took hours to fade away.
Whether or not any particular winter was problematic for me over the years depended on where I was in my life. When I was a child the more snow the better. As a young woman riding buses to work the height of the snowbanks and snowy sidewalks were my main concerns. There were winters spent in a warm house playing with a growing child all day when I hardly paid attention to the weather outside the window. As a single working mom supporting a household, a frozen car that wouldn’t start and miles of slippery, slushy roads between me and my place of employment caused weeks of winter stress. Throw in a few unexpected school closings and the stress level soared to new heights.
Of all the winter memories I have accumulated over the years, there is one that replays during winters like this one, winters when the snow piles high. It’s of a sunny, yet bitterly cold winter morning some time back in the 1950s when my family lived in what was then a new large apartment complex built on a flat hilltop near my hometown.
I have a very vivid memory of watching my dad walking through snow up to his knees in front of our building that winter morning. The wind lifted the ends of the scarf wrapped around his face and he walked with his head down as he trudged through the deep snow toward the plowed road that circled the development. He followed that road down to Campbells Avenue where he met a ride to work. He usually drove our car and I don't remember if it wouldn't start or if it was simply buried in snow. I don't even remember if I was old enough to go to school or if it was a snow day but I clearly remember standing in front of the warm radiator below the frosted window in my second floor bedroom and watching dad until he disappeared from view.
Why do I remember that morning so clearly? Maybe it was the first time I truly understood his responsibility as a parent and it became a lesson I never forgot.