Today marks a code red blizzard in the Netherlands. Our grocery order was pre-emptively cancelled, the trains aren’t running, and there seems to be a minor panic around this 3 inches of snow.
My New England comes out now. This? This is what you call a blizzard? This is what everyone is so worried about? Okay.
When I was younger, my dad used to watch the weather channel religiously. The same local forecast map over and over again, as if it would change or predict something different. Perhaps it was soothing, like watching a babbling brook or a fireplace. The weather radar map, replaying a green cloud over and over again into the night, as he sat on his lazy boy and ate popcorn.
New England wasn’t one for boring weather, in his defense. We had blizzards. But in my memory, Boston always knew how to handle them. I was once on the news at the age of six for being at the only public elementary school open in Massachusetts during a blizzard. Our superintendent had something to prove: we would not have a snow day. So there I was in my goofy pink hat, sitting on the school bus, featured on channel five. My 15 minutes of fame, minus 14 and a half.
Despite incessantly watching the weather channel, my dad didn’t care much when the weather changed. He shrugged, and put on his boots, long johns, and 8 pairs of wool socks. Always prepared.
The only thing that really mattered, his pastime throughout the years: having to dig us out.
That he did complain about. Each snow storm, he’d say, “okay girls, who is going to come and help me shovel?” and each time, we’d look up at him disinterested from our spot on the couch and then turn back to watching TV. When we were little, I think he even bought us pink industrial style snow shovels to help in the efforts. It didn’t work.
He’d go out there for hours in the same hat and winter boots, and slowly, methodically, shovel the driveway while we watched from inside. He’d come in occasionally, enviously reporting on someone’s new snow blower or how a neighbor had a connection with a gardening company that had a seasonal plow business on the side. Living in a land of white came with rules of respectability, neighborly commitment and unspoken shoveling laws (see: Boston’s long tradition of putting a chair/misc. object to hold a cleared spot on the street).
The biggest treat for my dad was when one of our neighbors would offer to do our driveway with their truck plow or snow blower: that was the best Christmas gift, all season long.
But usually it was my dad out there in his hat, with all the other dads on the block, looking the same and cursing under their breath as they slowly shoveled and dumped in their separate driveways, heads down, breath foggy, dedicated to the cause. All this so he could then “warm the cars up,” turning them on to breathe exhaust fumes into the neighborhood for a couple hours and thaw out, so we’d be toasty warm and ready to go when we needed to. That, by the way, was the point of the whole ritual in the first place: to go about the day. The snow never stopped my dad, and as a result, never stopped us either. We went to work, school, and the grocery store. We got in our cars and went where we needed to go. It was cold, but my dad taught me how to lean into a skid. Taught me to look out for sand and salt on the road, and showed me when a street wasn’t ready to drive on just yet. So, when the Dutch tell me to prepare for the blizzard, to stay safe, I shrug, roll my eyes, and look back at the TV, just as I did when I was young. They’ll figure it out, I think. We already know how to do this.