|My childhood home in Michigan|
One of my fondest childhood memories were the many massive snowstorms we had. Every winter I looked forward to that first snowfall of the season and in Michigan it usually took place in October, just before Halloween.
I remember a couple blizzards in my time as well. One particularly bad one was the blizzard of 1978. We shoveled the driveway every 15 minutes so that it would be clear for my dad to get home from work. We lived just off the freeway so he only had to traverse a short way. The snow fell so hard that the salt trucks could only focus on scraping and salting the freeways. We were housebound for a week and neighbors drove snowmobiles to Food Town to pick up groceries for other neighbors. It was days before that truck with the massive shovels made their way down our little side road. When they did, the 5 foot mound of snow that piled in our driveway from the shovel was a nightmare to remove.
I recall that storm well. The super high winds and drifts were incredible. We could not get out of the front of our house and when we looked out our back window, the neighbor's house was gone. Quite literally his single story home was covered by a snow drift and he was sledding off the top of it.
We shoveled a three feet deep horseshoe path just outside the back door for the dog to do his business. I remember taking photos with my sister out there to commemorate the storm.
Growing up in a snow paradise made for a lot of entertainment. We couldn't wait for the canal to freeze so we could shovel and skate. We would take our chances a little early sometimes and once we shimmied a little distance out on the ice, if we heard a huge crack we would quickly make our way back to shore.
I recall my dad setting up the fishing shanty in the middle of the lake in November. The men would ice-fish every weekend and the shanties would remain for months before they were dragged off the ice in March.
There were times it would grow so cold, a layer of the snow would turn into a sheet of solid ice. I recall walking across my backyard to the school bus stop across the top of a sheet of ice. I wondered what it would feel like to walk upon water as Jesus did. Then my foot might punch through the ice and I would find my leg in a 1-3 foot snow hole. There was nothing worse than getting a shoe full of snow!
Our mothers made due too. If our boots no loner fit us, our mothers would save the Wonder Bread bags and we would slip them over our shoes and use rubber bands to hold them up over our pant legs.
When I went outside to play my routine was to put on thermal underwear. I even had thermal socks. I would then layer on 2-3 pairs of socks and tuck my pants into my socks. I would wear a blouse and then 2 sweaters over that. I would wrap on a scarf around my neck and then put on coat. I would put on a hat and wrap another scarf around my face and tie it hard in the back of my head to keep it tight. Then gloves went on under mittens. Slip on the boots and I was ready to go.
Some nights I found myself sleeping in two pairs of pajamas. I slept with a myriad of 6 blankets and quilts on my bed each night and it took at least two hours before my feet would warm up in bed. Did I mention it was cold?
My window would freeze up in the winter as well. A mound of ice would form on the sill and every spring my mother would put towels on the sills to sop up the water as the strips of ice would melt.
I recall it would be so cold some days the nose hairs would freeze in my nostrils as I would breath in and out. My ears would have shooting pains when the cold air came into contact with earrings as it conducted the cold like nothing else.
I grew up building massive snowmen, making hundreds of snow angels, tossing thousands of snowballs. We built massive snow forts and my girlfriend and I would practice French kissing the snow as he hid inside.
I recall taking walks through the woods and pounding on the trees as the snow fell upon us from the canopy above. And I recall how my toes and fingers became so numb from spending hours outside. Worse yet, I still recall how they would turn red and swollen and burn like a son-of-a-gun as they began to warm up once inside the house.
When I got old enough to drive, I would have my share of driving on snow and ice and witness many accidents and spinouts.
As painful and cold as it was, and as much as I would never want to live with that again, I would never want to change having grown up in the snow belt because without the experience, there is simply no way to imagine such a thing exists.