Chapter 67: Snow Days

It’s snowing tonight in  the South.

At least it is here in North Carolina where I live now…

I know that doesn’t mean much to many people who live in places where snow is a common occurrence, but it is getting to be more and more rare here in the South.  It’s called Global Warming- believe it or not…

Anyway….

Snow always makes me think of Snow Days past.  Snow in the South always leads to irrational behavior.

Even for the South….

For instance, in the South, people who don’t know how to drive in the snow immediately hop into their cars and go driving around to “look at the snow” with their friends.  This also happens during ice storms.

They don’t seem to understand that having four wheel drive in an ice storm doesn’t make you invincible. It means all four wheels can skid out of control and you can still plow into another car or end up in a ditch.

Even in snow, they drive around at ridiculous speeds, paying no attention to the road and other cars, thinking their SUV’s make them safe.  This leads to a bonanza for towing companies and emergency rooms.

I went to college in the Virginia mountains for four years;  I can drive in the snow.  However, I choose not to because of the other fools who are out driving around with their false sense of security- who are too busy looking around to pay attention to the road and other cars or people.

Secondly, people in the South are terrified of starving to death in the snow.  I do not believe there has ever been a documented case of this happening in the South- at least due to snow.  Even people who don’t normally eat eggs, don’t drink milk and have plenty of bread go rushing to the Grocery store to buy these items out of fear that won’t be able to get groceries for days.

I can’t think of many snow storms that blocked the roads in Virginia or North Carolina for more than 24 hours, but rational behavior is not a Southern trait.  Just look at their voting patterns.

Given all this, I still get excited by the snow.  It’s something different.  It’s beautiful.  It’s elemental.  It makes us aware of being alive and we feel even more alive during a snow storm.  It enhances life…

And I can’t help but recall the Snow Days of my past….

Since I’m trying to block my childhood memories, I won’t talk too much about that.  Lets just say, they have been saying snow cream wasn’t safe since at least the 1960’s.  My Mother constantly babbled about “radiation poisoning”, now it’s pollution.  I think that was just another excuse  for her not to do something that resembled cooking.

I was at my Granny’s house once during a snow storm and told her what my Mother said and she looked at me like I was crazy.  She just scooped up some snow, added milk, sugar and vanilla flavoring and said “Your Mother has way too much time on her hands.  I don’t think any of us are going to die from eating snow.  At least as long as the dogs haven’t peed in it.  One of the main things to remember in life is not to eat yellow snow.”

In High School, we took it up a notch.  On a Snow Day, my friends and we would all gather together at one of our friend’s houses.  Preferably, one whose parents were not at home.

My senior year, when it snowed one day, we either got out from school early or didn’t bother to go in the first place.  Instead,  we all went to my friend Dennis’ house.  His  parents were divorced, so we only had to worry about one parent interfering with our plans.

We bought a few six packs of beer- you could legally drink then in Virginia at 18, but that didn’t stop us from drinking at 16- and had a snow party while his Mother was at work.  We all, of course,  assured our parents his Mother really was there…..

We eventually decided, after a few beers,  to go “play in the snow.”

We decided Snow Men were too common, too childish and passé, so we built a Snow Penis in his front yard.  After a few beers, building a Snow Penis in someone’s front yard seemed perfectly reasonable to all of us.  Especially since we lived to try to shock the neighbors…

His Mother eventually got released from work, due to the weather, and came home.  We had finished our artistic endeavors, and come in to warm up, drink more beer and smoke cigarettes.

She came in, looked at us and said:  “Is that what I think it is in my front yard?”  We looked at each other sheepishly.  Then she said:  “If you build a bigger one, call me.  You kids have fun!”

She went off to her room to lay down.  Mothers did that a lot then-went to their rooms with drinks or a valium to lay down and get away from their children….we all thought that was perfectly natural.

As I got older, Snow Days continued to take on a festive air.  We just can’t take snow for granted in the South.

In College, I remember heading back early to Washington and Lee University from Christmas Break to meet my friend Ralph.   Yes, it was called “Christmas Break” back then.

Neither of us could understand why people stayed with their families when we had our own apartments waiting for us in Lexington, Virginia.  Unlike today, we all tried to escape the parental units as soon as possible.  Our parents definitely were not “helicopter parents”.

My family thought I was crazy to pack up and insist on leaving in the middle of a snow storm, but I insisted I had to get back early to “study”.  One of the benefits of being a first generation College student was they actually believed that.  Or they had had enough of me, too, and pretended to do so.

Anyway, I left during a heavy snow storm and drove up Route 29 past Lynchburg, to take the two lane Route 60 across the mountains to Lexington.  I stopped in Amherst, a little town that is the last stop before heading over the mountains.  I called Ralph from a pay phone with my telephone credit card (pre-cell phone, that’s how we did it) to check on the weather and roads on the other side of the mountains.

Ralph assured me, the roads were fine in Lexington and it was barely snowing.  So, I headed across the mountain.It was only about 30 more miles.

They had a road block at the Amherst traffic circle right before you headed across the mountains.  They were trying to tell people the roads were too bad to travel.  I told them it was a family emergency and that I had to get to Lexington.  They were getting ready to close the road, but let me pass….

Driving that little two lane, curvy road, the roads got icier and icier.  I remembered I had a pint of Jack Daniels under the seat and it seemed like sipping that might be good to keep me warm and calm my nerves.  It took about two hours to drive those 30 miles and, when I got there, I asked Ralph to explain himself.

He had been drinking Jack Black himself waiting on me and his first question was:  “What took you so long?”

Bottom line:  He was bored and wanted company.  He would have told me anything to get me to come to Lexington and keep him company.

Going to college in the Virginia mountains led to several other Snow Adventures.

Another particular one I remember is driving down from Washington and Lee University  to a dance at Randolph Macon Woman’s College one winter.  We never let little things like snow, ice  or studies interfere with our social lives.

I need to pause to explain our college situation.  This was the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  We did not go to co-ed schools and could not imagine co-ed dorms.  W&L was then an all male school and we dated women and went to dances and parties at all girls’ schools like Randolph Macon Woman’s College, Sweet Briar, Hollins and Mary Baldwin.

We all traveled constantly back and forth across the mountains, on winding two lane roads, to dates and social events, at each other’s schools, in various states of inebriation.  It is a miracle any of us survived.

All the girls schools forbid male visitors in the dorms, after a certain hour, regardless of the circumstances.

After 1:00 a.m, it was somehow determined to be much more likely that people might have sex .  One of the reasons these private schools cost so much money was to protect the girls’ virtue.  Apparently, it was decided that deflowering was less likely to happen earlier in the day…..

This night, we knew the weather was going to be bad, but we had already planned to stay with one of my W&L friend’s family in Lynchburg.  As usual, we weren’t concerned about anything but the party.

We had a great time at the dance and, as usual,  headed back to the girls’ dorm for cocktails before we were to be thrown out in the streets.  For some reason, we were drinking frozen daiquiri’s in the middle of the winter during a snow and ice storm…

Then there was an unimaginable tragedy.  We ran out of ice…

Being resourceful college students, with strong critical thinking skills, we decided to climb out on the roof over the porch to get some snow to make more daiquiri’s.

Apparently we made too much noise….

The dorms all had “Dorm Mothers” then who, at Randolph-Macon at least,  were elderly Black women charged with protecting the girls from the boys.  They received us at the front desk, phoned upstairs to ask the young ladies if they wished to receive us and the young lady had to come down and sign us in as a visitor.  When, visiting hours were over, they would then track us down and throw all the boys out.

I don’t want to be racist and say “mammies” but the thought did cross our minds back then…

This night, this particular Dorm Mother heard us collecting ice and came up the stairs and stared at us incredulously.  She said:  “Don’t you know it’s an ice storm going on, power is going off all over town and its slick as can be out there?  Get off that roof and get back in here right now before you break your necks.  You have obviously had enough cocktails.  These young ladies need to go to bed and you boys need to hit the road.  Now.”

Our response was: “If it’s so bad outside, can’t we stay?”

She replied:  “You should have thought about that before you came here and drank all that liquor.  Get out of here.  Now.  Those are the rules.”

Then the power went out….but she would not budge.

So we piled into the car, with College boys from all over Virginia doing the same forced mass exit from the dorms and headed out from Randolph Macon to my friend’s house.  We were lucky;  it was only a couple of miles.  We, miraculously, made it safely there where his family had candles to light our way and more liquor to warm us up….

We continued this behavior, with better planning and no Dorm Mothers, well into our 30’s.  When it snowed, we would always all pack up and all go to one friend’s house or apartment for a Snow Slumber Party.

As we entered out late 20’s and 30’s , these parties  generally were made up of a slightly different group-a mix of a few gay men and a few straight women.  We drank, smoked cigarettes, laughed, talked and played games.  If you weren’t lucky enough to get the one guest room or sofa, you camped out on the floor.  This led to many amusing pictures I will not publish on Facebook.

It was all very innocent and fun….

For a while, after my Grandmother died, I lived in her house and hosted the Snow Slumber Parties.

During this period, I recall, we had one particularly bad snow storm.  We had laid in food, booze and cigarettes enough to get us through the normal 24-48 hours of a Southern snow storm, but this one dragged on.  The roads were still horrible…

Granny’s house was on a very narrow road on a very steep hill.  We had plenty of food, but after 24 hours, were low on cigarettes and liquor, so we decided we had to go out for provisions.

We had the sense not to try to drive and instead decided to walk the mile or two to the grocery and liquor stores, conveniently located in the same shopping center.

We bundled up like characters in movie “Jeremiah Johnson” and the five or six of us started our hike out for the necessities of life.

We got there, with no trouble but, being Southerners caught in the snow, bought enough stuff to last a week and had to carry it all while we walked back….

Of course, we sipped refreshments along the way to fight off the cold…Brandy, I think.

We got within a couple of blocks of the house before the first one went down.  My friend Madonna laid down in the snow and said: “This is the Bataan Death March in the cold.  I can’t go any farther, just leave me here.”

My friend, Jeffry, said:  “Someone take the liquor she’s carrying and leave the whiny bitch.   We can have real cocktails and food as soon as we get to Granny’s house and it’s only a couple of blocks.  If she’s too lazy to make it, the hell with her.”

That’s just what she needed to hear:  Real cocktails were within sight.  Motivation to live.  She got up, brushed herself off and made it home for dinner, cocktails and two more days of Snow Parties….

As we got older, we calmed down.  We didn’t take the foolish chances we once did.  We became more rational and cautious.  We drank less- a lot less.  We didn’t all feel the need to pile up together during “Snow Days”.

And we now have the internet and cell phones to keep in touch from the comfort of our own homes.  We can still be together without being together physically.

We don’t feel isolated, scared or alone- or we can instantly reach out if we do….

Our packs broke up and we all moved on…

But I think we all still get a thrill from a Southern Snow Day.

Now we just talk about it on Facebook.

We haven’t lost the magic of Snow in the South.

It’s still special.  People still buy way too much milk, eggs, bread, wine and liquor…fools still ride around to “look at the snow.”  Maybe the younger people still congregate for Snow Parties…

The snow now seems to make us stop and think.  We suddenly feel a connection to nature and the earth that we don’t always feel during our normal, busy weeks or that we missed when we were young.

We realize how limited our sphere of control really is…

We don’t pull together around the fire like our ancestors did, or have Snow Parties like we did when we were young.

But we now all gather around Facebook and share our joy and fears about how nature has intruded into our normally controlled, regimented lives.

We are still aware of forces bigger than us and we still face them together…..

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One Response to Chapter 67: Snow Days

  1. Pingback: Chapter 67: Snow Days | My Southern Gothic Life | Lost in the 21st Century

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