I hadn’t paid much attention to the hype about the blizzard heading toward Philadelphia until I was nearly concussed on Thursday by a woman fighting for one of the last cartons of milk at the Wynnewood Giant.
Not a fan of winter, I had been pleasantly surprised by this one so far, with temperatures only intermittently dipping into the 20s and teens and no snow to speak of. The high on Christmas hovered near 70.
So forecasts calling for a possible two-foot deposit seemed unlikely, or so I hoped, trying to will away the nor’easter.
And even if we did see significant snowfall, I reasoned, it might provide a welcome diversion from more diurnal cares, such as my 9-year-old twins’ constant sparring and my 5-year-old’s recent report that she sometimes accidentally dunked her hand in public toilets when wiping.
A friend, who sent around a group text inviting us to a “snow-pen house,” seemed to share my sentiments.
“This is Lower Merion Township with an important announcement,” she wrote. “It is going to snow a little bit this weekend. Everybody just needs to chill the f@&$ out!”
But when I saw my mother-in-law on Friday, she was nearly twitching with anxiety.
“You’ve been watching The Weather Channel again, haven’t you?”
“I just can’t help myself,” she confessed, heading off to her apartment to hunker down with her Boston Cream Pie Yoplait Whips and remote control.
I, myself, started to worry a bit after receiving yet another robo-call from the township instructing residents to park in driveways where possible and saying that a snow emergency had been declared.
Then my husband walked in around 7 p.m., having accidentally left his boots at work. Back out he went to the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse in Wynnewood, miraculously snagging the last pair of men’s size 11 knock-off Timberlands.
Left at home, I found myself switching on The Weather Channel against my better judgment, hoping that the meteorologists’ apocalyptic predictions would drown out the squabbling of my three children. Then I started to rifle through closets to retrieve last year’s snow pants and boots, hoping that our kids could still squeeze into them.
Taking a last glance out the window at a world rapidly covering itself in white, I went to bed, trying to be stoic but now fearing the worst.
What if our pipes froze? What if a 50-mph gust toppled that old-growth tree we had neglected? What if we ran out of beer?
The fact that our 5-year-old woke us at 4:46 the next morning, saying that she couldn’t sleep because of a noise outside, did little to buoy my spirits. The snowplows had started running.
And I had to stuff the bottoms of my pajamas into my boots so I could shovel a path from our kitchen door, across our deck, into the backyard for our small dog to relieve himself. Despite my efforts—I hadn’t even had a sip of coffee yet—I still had to rescue Buddy who sank up to his whiskers in a snowdrift. I finally carried him through the house and just let him pee on the bricks of our covered front porch.
“I’m bored,” my 9-year-old daughter said, as she stood dripping in our foyer after a brief snowball fight with her twin brother. It was 10:04 a.m.
“Can we watch ‘Winnie the Pooh: Springtime With Roo’?” Jane, 5, asked.
Griffin groaned and demanded a snack.
“I like to pair mismatched scrubs with a Mrs. Robinson jacket,” a friend later texted, attaching a picture of herself in baggy green bottoms and a leopard-print bolero.
“The things we do to divert ourselves during a blizzard,” I texted back, then went to vacuum the basement, the most distant point I could find in our house from our fighting children.
My husband, who for some reason follows The National Weather Service on Twitter, came down to tell me how they’d requested that people send in snow pictures and then quickly tweeted again to say not to if it was too dangerous to go out.
Meanwhile, it was starting to seem dangerous, the high winds having resumed and sleet mixing into the snow, rapidly covering the narrow paths we’d cleared earlier that day.
“You should open a business,” Georgia had brightly remarked. “C & J’s Shoveling!”
That was before Jeff and I had tried to free the cars that had been plowed into the driveway. Knee-deep in heavy snowdrifts, we soon abandoned the project and went back inside to deal with our warring children.
The twins were bickering over a puzzle. Jane was unraveling because I switched off the TV. We missed the “snow-pen house” because we couldn’t extricate the cars, and it was too far to walk in the blizzard with our grumpy kids.
But then a neighbor managed to fire up his finicky snowblower, kindly promising us the use of it. We still had power and plenty of Goldfish Crackers. I told myself that we would endure the shifting winds of family life, even as the nor’easter continued to rage.
And maybe, if we were lucky, the sun would emerge again tomorrow, and we would meet friends at the nearby sledding hill—and there we would fill up our lungs and souls with the bright vigor that winter sometimes holds out like a peace offering after a storm.