Go West, Young Man by Sharon O’Donnell
In the part of North Carolina that I’ve lived in all my life, snow is rare and is seen by most people as an ‘event’. Sure, the mountains get snow, but that’s a 3-5 hour drive away, depending on which part of the mountains it is. The Raleigh/Cary area where I live seems to always be on the dividing line between snow and ice/rain. It’s located a bit east of the center of the state, and when snow storms do venture west of the mountains from time to time, it becomes a news story if it comes near our area. The many Northerners who have moved down here laugh at us, but they perhaps they don’t realize that our cities don’t have the snow-removing equipment that Northern cities have to have. It’s just not economically feasible to spend tax money on snow equipment here when it rarely snows; thus, when it does snow, things slow to a crawl around here. The roads are icy – especially the many back roads – , schools close down, some businesses close or at least open late, and hospitals ask for volunteers with 4 wheel-drive vehicles to help transport employees and patients.
Still, even with all the hassle involved, snow is seen by most people as a welcome event. Children and teens absolutely love a snow day — or two or three — off from school. Sometimes the snow might be deep enough that they can actually build a snowman or go sledding, resulting in wonderful memories they will never forget. On the snow days of the past when my sons would go out to play, they would come in, their faces red from the cold, and I’d make grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. It always seemed so cozy and comfortable, and I loved having everyone under our roof with no places we had to be because we couldn’t get out on the roads. In the big snow storm of 2000 when we got 2 feet of snow, things closed down for a week or more; it was lots of fun for a few days, but then it got kind of boring not being able to get out of house to go anywhere. Watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was the highlight of the day (back when Regis first began the show and it came on in prime time several times a week). After the boys tired of playing in the snow, they played video games with other boys in the neighborhood, and I still remember those days fondly as I got to know some of our young neighbors a bit better. Yet, it was nice when the snow and ice finally went away, and things got back to normal again.
My two older sons have some great memories of all those times. My youngest son, Jason, who is 12, hasn’t seen as much snow as his brothers have. There was one snow a few years ago that was enough for some sledding, but it melted quickly. There have many more ‘almosts’ in which the weather forecaster would predict snow, creating excitement among school kids, as well as prompting trips to the overwhelmed grocery stores as people stocked up, — but then it turned out that it didn’t snow after all. When this happens, there are many sad faces among the disappointed school children. Most of this is due to the lack of snow, but it can also be due to the fact that — despite warnings from their parents — some kids do not finish their homework because they think school would be canceled. It’s all part of the Raleigh snow experience.
Two days ago we were forecasted to have 3 to 4 inches in this area, causing the traditional hoopla and excitement. Of course, forecasters also said there were several variables that would have to come together if the snow were to materialize. Ah, I knew that kind of talk too well. I told Jason, my 12-year-old not to get his hopes up because it might not snow. However, the word ‘snow’ had already been spoken by a TV weatherman; there was no going back now. So when the white stuff started to fall around 10:00 that night, I was relieved and happy that Jason would get his snow; thirty minutes later, though, the snow had stopped. In its place was a rain/sleet mix. As it drizzled down, Jason’s face fell and tears welled up in his eyes. He was so disappointed. Crestfallen, I think it is the word. I told him I knew how he felt because I did. This snow thing went on when I was a kid, too. I remember hoping desperately for the predicted snow, only to wake up the next morning to a yard of green grass and school buses on the clear roads. Snow in our area is almost magical, and when it doesn’t arrive as it’s supposed to, the loss of that magic is evident. When I was little, I was very close to five of my cousins who were all close in age to me; they lived north of us near the Virginia border and when snow was forecast, they always got it, but not us, even
though we were only an hour and half south. I used to be so jealous. I honestly knew how Jason felt.
So when the snow didn’t come this week, I decided to follow through on something Jason and I had talked about in the past: I made reservations for us to go to snow tubing in the mountains. If the snow won’t come to us, then we will go to the snow. We’d follow the “Go west, young man” advice. Jason is tracked out of school next week, so he and I are going to go on a two-day winter excursion with snow tubing for both of us and snowboarding for him (snowboarding requires coordination that I don’t have and a good back that I don’t have either). My other boys are in college, and my husband will be at home since he has to work and stay with the dog. I’d rather have everyone go, but I will also relish this time to spend with my youngest son.
But I am definitely counting on there being a ski lodge with a fireplace and hot chocolate.