Not So Bleak Midwinter…

Andrea from that same year...sans snow

I’ll Find My Way (Live) the Derek Trucks Band from the LP Songlines
While this seems to be one of the mildest winters I have seen in my forty-one years on this rock, I make no bones about the fact that I don’t mind the snow.  One of the things that always seemed to bother me when we moved first from Nebraska to Texas and later to California was the lack of the full swing of seasons.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss driving in the ice and avoiding the crazy people with no idea how to handle the icy driving at all.  That part always scared me and it was very hard on any car.

I did take some solace, though, in knowing that where in Texas we simply went through a massive amount of heat and humidity in the summer and just a bit of rain in the winter – unless there was a major ice storm due to the conflagration of weather fronts – in California there is the opportunity to at least SEE the snow.  In the first year we moved here I took the kids up to the mountains and let them play.  It really didn’t take long.  Andrea had to work, and she didn’t want to go up into the snow, either, so it was left to me, Dad, to expose my kids to the weather their heritage would have normally exposed them to.  The boys, still very tiny and toddlers in their stature, were amazed by it.  We didn’t go to a resort, there was no skiing.  We went to a picnic area I knew about.  On the way we saw a waterfall on the side of Highway 50, a massive amount of water flowing down, into the river, spraying us with its fan of mist as we stopped to look at it.  It wasn’t something I’d thought about on the way up, it just was neat to see and the kids were enamored by it.

The snow, though, they were enthralled with.  The boys walked headlong into it, diving in head first, trying very hard to get as much of their bodies into the white stuff as they could.  That is, until they realized just how cold it was.  It didn’t take long for them to come running out to the concrete and brushing it off, giggling the whole while.  That’s the thing with the Northern California winter, you can go up, play for a couple hours, laugh, have a snowball fight, make as many snowmen as you want, and then come back down to the sunshine, warmth, and hot chocolate without any evidence you’d even seen a bit of moisture on the ground.  On one hand, that’s amazing and fun and beautifully perfect in its simplicity.  On the other, it removes any semblance of winter from you.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss shoveling snow or slipping on the ice and falling on my behind.  I do think, though, that if you are not exposed to the full change of seasons your body misses something.  I feel it to a degree here, but I can only imagine how it would be living in Southern California or even on Grand Cayman.

I realize some of this is nostalgia.  I was told once by a friend that they liked what I wrote here because it’s sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always romantic.  It’s not really what I had intended, but then I wasn’t sure what I was doing when I started here.  I do realize, though, that after spending so much of my life bonded to one person the smallest things, like a weather report on the snow, can take your mind back to the most random places in your mind.  The report that snow was in the mountains this morning, the new weather anchor at our shop counting off “when the fireworks will start” for the mountains started the synapses firing in my mind.  I found myself drifting off to another time in my head, when I should have been paying attention.  It doesn’t take a lot of time, it’s amazing how memories will floodyou in pieces, like your head bobbing up for air while you fall under the water, and you sometimes fight the bursts of memory because you’re not sure how you’re going to react.

This one took me back nearly twenty years.  I had been dating Andrea for a short while, not too long, and I remember it vividly because it was April 15th, tax day.  The description of “feet of snow” took me to a rare April snow storm in Omaha that just enveloped the city.  I was in college, so was Andrea, rooming with two other women just across from Creighton University, where she went to Undergrad.  The storm was so bad that my school, the University of Nebraska at Omaha may actually have shut down for the first time in decades.  Creighton, however, I remember for a fact, did not.  The three roomates had attended classes, trudged through the slush and snow, and made it back to their apartment.  I had met them after work, as Andrea wasn’t full time at our station yet.

You’d think, if I was smart, I’d have stayed home, avoided work, talked on the phone, whatever.  But you were young once, too, I’m sure.  You’re invincible, you’re stupid, and the world is there, laid at your feet.  Beside, I have to admit, a beautiful, young, blonde haired blue-eyed girl from California asked me to come over . . . let’s be honest, a Tsunami couldn’t really have stopped me.

But the snow was insane this day.  I mean, snow the likes of which happens once in a very blue moon.  The streets weren’t even plowed.  Andrea was at her apartment with only one of her roommates and they decided not long after I’d arrived that they wanted pizza.  None of us were oozing cash so Domino’s, of course, is the death disc of choice.  To give you an idea of how bad the snow was, the pizza joint wouldn’t even allow their drivers out in the storm.  It was just too bad a storm and the streets just too impassable.  The solution?

“Dave, you’ll go get the pizza, won’t you?”

Now, understand, I wasn’t suicidal.  I wasn’t stupid, not most of the time, but this should have signalled what the rest of my days would be like.  Understand, even to my own detriment sometimes, Andrea had a sort of power over me.  It’s not that she controlled me or abused the right to ask me anything, but I found that no matter what the request, for the most part, I couldn’t tell Andrea no.  This was one of the first nights I realized it.  I remember looking at her and her roommate with no idea what to say.  I do remember sarcastically telling her “this storm is so bad even the pizza delivery guys won’t go out!” and seeing her look at me and simply saying “please?”

I know you realize I was doomed.  I was head over heels, I had to have been,  because this wasn’t just silly, it was stupidity.  I hit the curb at least half a dozen times on the way to Dominos, the snow and ice so bad that I just couldn’t control the car.  I didn’t go more than 15-20mph, I remember because I was driving a ’77 Buick Skylark.  It was rear wheel drive.  I put cinder blocks and sand bags in the trunk to weigh it down and gain traction.  I drove in low gear to increase the torque.  It didn’t matter.  Snow tires on ice aren’t much better than sneakers on glass.  You move, but good luck trying to stop.

I’m not sure how I got back, but I got back.  We ate the pizza, probably just pepperoni due to the fact I wasn’t particularly adventurous at that time.  I do remember that when  I walked in the door, Andrea met me.  It’s not like she cheesily proclaimed “my hero!” or anything, but she kissed me and that was enough.  I forgot all about the drive and the snow.  I drank a Miller Lite and ate pizza and we listened to music.  We looked out the sliding glass door of their apartment and watched the snow coming down.  The sulphur lamps on the street added a strange, orange glow to the landscape.  There were no cars on the road, it was calm.  The snow made the outside world uncannily quiet and like so many times throughout our relationship, she reached over and ran her fingers up the back of my hair.

I don’t remember what time it was when I realized that we were alone in the living room of their apartment.  I dreaded the drive back to my own apartment, a massive seventy or more blocks away in the deceptively serene snow.  I remember reaching for my coat at some point, standing to leave, and Andrea stopped me.

“I don’t want you driving in that.”
“It didn’t stop you when you wanted pizza.”
“But we saw you leave and I realized how bad it was. ”
“I didn’t mind, I would have done it anyway.  I just like giving you shit.”
She looked at me, smiling, that amazing, twinkling smile in her eyes, and she put her arms around me.

“Stay.”

It’s a lot to remember, I know, and I know you wonder how I remember the conversations.  Maybe the memories are that vivid, or maybe it’s how I have filled in the gaps.  But where some see snow and winter as hazards and impediments to happiness. . . the storm just made my day brighter.  I took some silly risks, but the rewards were far better than I could have ever imagined.

Now, I miss that.  Not just the snow.  That feeling, the press of her fingers on the back of my head, the gentle touch of her hand.  I would bet she had no idea by the last few years she even did that.  I never stopped her.  The simplest, silliest little touch, but I loved to have her feeling so near me.

Now I hear snow and I think about those silly storms and wish there were a day or two now where I could hold her again.  Days where I could see the snow on the ground and again I’d hear her simply ask me to stay.

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