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There’s no time like the first snow time

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By Steve Doyle

 So the big topic this weekend at our house was the forecast of snow. Chances are it might have been at yours, too, but our terms of endearment were probably quite different.

Ours was a sort of breathless anticipation. We checked online to monitor the hour-by-hour updated forecast. We watched the skies and felt the chill.

We were ready to awaken on Sunday morning and see the white stuff.

“Does that mean we can go out and build a snowman tomorrow?” my son asked, his eyes bright and shining.

He’s 7 and was born  in Minneapolis. His expectations are vastly different.

Please recognize that we are longtime Florida residents who recently relocated. To us snow has been a 4-letter word screamed by pasty-white people as they escaped the Georgia border heading south for the winter.

So you understand that, when we awakened on Sunday, we were excited to see the 24 flakes that coated the hoods and tops of cars and decorated the roofs. There was even a perfect white line beneath the bottom of the fence around our patio until about noon.

It all is a bit silly, I realize, but there is a certain bit of wonder to seeing the first flakes fall from a steely November sky, even if they melt on contact and fail to accumulate.

The holiday season is made for snow. Call me Bing Crosby, but from mid-November until after New Year’s, the white stuff always has felt like it belonged alongside the trees, the lights and the Nativity.

In Florida, you prayed for 60 degrees or so, so you could light your Duraflames and pretend chestnuts were roasting. And you flew home in anticipation of something more seasonal.

Several of those holiday visits have been blessed with enough white stuff to make it merry and bright but not enough to make it a fright.

I would get off the plane and cheer, and the folks picking me up at the airport would ask if my lobotomy had failed. Didn’t I remember all those cold, snowy winters before I moved south?

And of course I do. We all have our horror stories of snow too deep to navigate and streets too slick to negotiate. Perhaps you’ve been stranded by mounds and mounds of the stuff until cabin fever set in.

My most favorite snow memory came on a windy Saturday in, of all months, March, when I was in third grade.

The snow started falling heavily before first light, and the drifts were forming immediately, creating little canyons along any surface that allowed the wind to buffet. You might walk on nearly bare ground in one step and sink 8 or 10 inches with the next.

And all day long, that foreboding, gun-metal-gray sky poured out the snow, and the cold wind blew it into these artistic drifts.

By nightfall, Todds Point Road – then something less than the boulevard it is today --  was nothing but a 3-foot-deep drift from ditch-to-ditch. Some of the kids built tunnels and forts along the banks.

My dad, returning home late from work, had to leave his car at Buckman’s store next to the railroad track in Simpsonville and plod home through the drifts.

My uncle, visiting on weekend leave from the Navy, fared worse. He drove to within a half-mile of our farm before surrendering to the conditions and walking, too. His 1956 Chevy convertible remained behind, buried to its roofline for days.

By Monday, U.S. 60 had been cleared, so my dad, my uncle and I hiked the mile back to Dad’s car – through the open fields, which had much less snow than the roadway – and drove my uncle to Standiford Field, so he could return to his ship.

Then we drove back to Buckman’s and hiked home again.

Two or three days later, two bulldozers driving toward each other finally burrowed through the drifts and reopened Todds Point. We cheered. We wanted Spring!

That old story came to mind again on Monday as I watched these huge, white flakes float aimlessly to the ground. And it sparked a great sense of excitement.

My Dad always says that an old country adage tells us that the date of the first real snowfall – not a flake – will indicate how many snowfalls there will be this winter.

I’m glad that requires a measurable amount.

Because even to a Florida escapee, 16 snows would seem like a lot.