Snow Story

We haven’t gotten much snow this year, but that hasn’t stopped the fine folks on the Weather Channel from predicting another ice age. Ellen, because she is a teacher, eats these reports up. On the night before an impending storm, she and my son huddle in front of the TV with their fingers crossed and pajamas turned inside out, hoping and praying for several feet of snow.

The fact that I would be the one shoveling all this snow is irrelevant.

Years ago, my mom was also a teacher. She was also a slavish Weather Channel devotee, but her reasons for watching were more complicated. Mom taught in Paterson, NJ, a place where they never closed the schools. So she watched the weather report to gage how aggravating her commute would be; that way she could plan ahead and lather up an appropriate amount of rage.

(It should also be noted that Mom is German and Germans don’t like things they can’t control. No one — not even a German — can control the weather, so Mom loathed it.)

So when The Big Snowstorm approached Mom was on edge.

“Jim! Jim! The snow is coming! You have to get the tree out! NOW!”

I don’t remember the exact year of The Big Snowstorm, but I do remember that it took place shortly after the New Year, because our evergreen Christmas tree was now a naked everbrown. For some reason my parents waited for at least a week after New Year’s Day to get rid of the tree, which ensured that its journey to the front door would leave behind a mountain of needles.

Weather didn’t have the same peculiar effect on my Dad, but he had his own quirks. For one thing, he was not a big believer in seeing a job through to its conclusion. He would always get the job done, mind you, but if a one-day job could be completed in two, he was all over that idea.

So once he managed to get the disintegrating Christmas tree through the front door, he simply heaved it off the stoop and let it flop in the middle of our front yard.

“There!” Dad proclaimed, swelling with the satisfaction of a job half-done.

“Take it to the curb!” Mom demanded.

“I’ll take it to the curb on Saturday.”

It was Sunday.

Needless to say, Dad’s declaration prompted an argument. When Mom’s weather anxiety and Dad’s half-assed efforts came together, it was a deadly combination. It was the cue for me to go to my room.

A few hours later, in the mid-afternoon, the snow began to fall. And, right from the start, Mother Nature began to show off. The temperature was low, so the flakes were small and powdery, but the air was thick with them. We could barely see beyond our mailbox.

“They called a state of emergency,” Mom said grimly as she and I watched the snow accumulate. I was delighted – I wouldn’t have to go to school – but I tried to contain my glee. In Mom’s eyes it would’ve been traitorous for me to support the actions of The Enemy.

A state of emergency meant that Mom wouldn’t have to go to school either, which should have calmed her down, but it didn’t. Her ingrained sense of justice would not allow it; this storm had New Jersey at its mercy and that was wrong. Even with a day off, Mom did not like the situation. Not at all. Not. One. Bit.

“Jim?”

No answer. Dad was in his basement hidey hole reading a book on World War II and listening to Yanni.

“Jim!”

Still no answer.

“JIM!”

“Whaaat?”

“We need to call The Plow Guy!”

It was useless to call The Plow Guy, and all three of us knew it. The Plow Guy would be out. Plowing. Because that’s what he did in snowstorms.

Besides, The Plow Guy only plowed for his list of subscribers. When you signed up for The Plow Guy’s services, he’d plow your driveway whenever it snowed. It was a pretty straightforward business arrangement, but Dad didn’t like it. It was expensive — and vaguely emasculating.

“So when it snows two inches he’ll plow the driveway and make me pay?” Dad would sputter, aghast. “I can shovel two inches of snow. I can shovel two feet of snow. I only need The Plow Guy when it snows a lot.”

So we didn’t subscribe to The Plow Guy. And on those rare days when we wished we had, it was too late to do anything about it.

But not really. Dad had a Plan B. All of our neighbors subscribed to The Plow Guy’s services, so Dad’s strategy was to keep an eye out for The Plow Guy when he plowed our neighbors’ driveways. When he caught sight of him, Dad would pull on his work boots, throw on a coat, grab a handful of money, run through the snow to where The Plow Guy was plowing, and bribe him to clear our driveway.

So as the snow continued to fall and fall, the three of us kept watch. Sometimes we watched as a group, sometimes we watched in shifts, but never was our front window missing a lookout.

We watched, and we watched some more. But all we saw was accumulating snow.

One foot of snow.

Eighteen inches of snow.

Two feet of snow.

“We better not lose our electricity,” Mom said. Her words sounded like a threat, like she was trying to intimidate the overhead wires.

If there was one thing Mom hated more than weather it was a house without electricity. “If we lived in the pioneer era,” she often asserted, “this family would be dead within an hour.”

By 10 p.m., 30 inches of snow had fallen and it was still coming down. It was a snowy siege.

But then: The cavalry.

“JIM! THE PLOW!”

Dad was not a fast fellow. In 1971 he had shattered both of his legs in a particularly nasty fall, but Mom’s battle cry got him about as close to running as I’ve ever seen him. He thumped up the basement stairs with an uncharacteristic sense of purpose. He was in his pajamas, but he didn’t care. He slipped his feet into his work boots without bothering to tie the laces, swept his brown corduroy coat over his shoulders as if he was the fourth musketeer, and set out through the front door into the whipping winter winds to wave down the distant plow.

Dad raced down the porch stairs and plunged into snow up to his waist. Snow soaked through his pajamas and poured into his boots, but he didn’t cry out or show any sign of weakness. He just let out a low, determined growl of sorts as he half walked half hopped though the powdery drifts.

It was all pretty badass. I was impressed.

That is, until Dad fell over the Christmas tree.

It was a remarkable sight. One moment Dad was there in the deep snow churning his legs toward The Plow Guy and the next he was gone. Vanished. He fell flat on his face and mountains of dry snow fell in on top of him. The earth swallowed him whole without a trace. Buried alive.

Mom and I were too stunned to speak.

There was a long, unsteady pause.

Then, in a sudden and heroic burst of energy, there he was! Fighting the good fight! Flailing! And stumbling! And lurching! He flopped about like a rag doll in his open coat and flimsy pajamas, trying and repeatedly failing to get his footing. By the time he eventually staggered to his feet, he was caked with snow from head to foot looking quite a bit like a drunken Frosty the Snowman.

Mom was horrified, worried, panicked.

I, on the other hand, was laughing so hard I was hacking up mucus.

“It’s not funny!” Mom shouted, swatting me.

But it was! It was the funniest thing I had ever seen. Ever.

“Go out and help him!”

“Are you crazy?” I managed to sputter between wheezy gasps. “I’m not going out in that!”

“Oh, you are going out in that. Get your coat! Where are your boots?” She flung open the front closet door and pawed through it in search of my parka. Mom had lost her mind.

“What am I supposed to do once I’m out there?”

“Help your father up!”

“But he’s already up! Look!” I swung open the front door, ignored the stinging wind, and lunged my index finger through the opening.

Indeed, Frosty the Snow Dad was on his feet. We found him standing motionless at the far corner of our front yard silhouetted by the yellow glow of a street lamp. The dramatic lighting, Dad’s posture and the general air of melancholy that overwhelmed the scene reminded me of something I one saw in a Humphrey Bogart film.

Dad had tried but failed to get The Plow Guy’s attention. The Plow Guy had cleared all of the neighbors’ driveways. The Plow Guy was gone.

Dad’s valiant effort, his discomfort, his humiliation, was all for nothing. And the pain wasn’t even over yet. Now he had to come back to the house and listen to Mom yell at him.

His pace was slower now. Dad was defeated and numb and cold to his core. He was a sorry sight.

Until he fell over the Christmas tree again!

Again he fell face first into the snow! Again the snow swallowed him whole!

And it was even funnier the second time around!

Laughter exploded from deep within me. I made joyous noises I have never heard before or since – including something that sounded like “BWAAAAAAA!”

My insides ached. My lungs couldn’t get enough air. I was sure I was going to die – and I was totally OK with that, for I would die deliriously happy.

I knew right then and there that this was – and would always be – the Quintessential Dad Story – a delicious slapstick fiasco that never ever would have happened if Dad, for just one moment, did something slightly out of character. Like take the tree to the curb or subscribe to The Plow Guy or recognize that it was silly to leap out into nearly three feet of snow wearing pajamas.

But nope. Dad stuck to his life script and it was beautiful.

And, fear not. Dad was fine. In fact he was better than fine. Once he came back inside, Mom didn’t even think about yelling at him. Her anger wasn’t directed at Dad, or even that evil, awful weather.

Nope, her anger was directed squarely at insensitive me.

Mom fussed over Dad, helped him out of his coat and boots and got him new pajamas fresh from the dryer. She even made him cocoa.

As for me, I was in the doghouse. The next day Mom made me shovel the driveway by myself. It took all afternoon, but I didn’t mind. In fact, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The driveway was the only safe place for me to get out all of my stray giggles.

 

 

95 thoughts on “Snow Story

  1. They should film this story and show it every Christmas. It’s better than Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time.

  2. MIke, Great story! You should submit this to a contest, like Selected Shorts. It’s really good. p.s. My poor house in Orient, NY got blasted with 31 inches of snow. Needless to say, I am so glad I paid the plow guy to do our driveway.

    • Thanks, Robin! As it now stands, it’s much too long for Selected Shorts, but perhaps a judicious edit is in order…

      I am delighted to hear that you are duly plowed. There is probably a special place in heaven for the driveway clearers.

  3. I just read this posy while babysitting my little Cousin Rafe. He was busy building with his Legos, but kept running over to ask why I kept laughing. How do you explain to a “just-turned” three year old that the tears running down your face are the result of a hysterical telling of a story centering around your best friends comic happenings? Thanks for brightening up another nasty winter’s day.
    Love, Aunt Elaine

  4. I’m laughing so hard that I’m actually crying, Mike, and making those little squeaky noises.

    My co-workers think I’m having an aneurism.

    Here’s to sticking to our life scripts!

  5. I dissolved–yes dissolved like snow on a warm day–into choking giggles reading your story. Too funny for words. What a star performer. That’s you telling the story and your dad giving you the opportunity to write it.
    Help ME. I can’t 😀 b.r.e.a.t.h.e. 😀 😀

  6. So funny! Laugh out loud funny! Your story reminds me of the time MY father got out of the car in a practical hurricane to put money in a meter. When his umbrella turned inside out and us three kids fell into hysterics, he was so angry he turned the car around and drove home. Three hours. End of vacation!

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  8. You’re not the only one laughing. I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room during my kids’ exams right now and I tried hard not to laugh out loud. I failed, and now people think I’m a crazy lady. But the image of your dad floundering in the snow is too funny. Bet that’s a story that frequently gets retold at holiday meals!

  9. Hahahh – thanks for the laugh! That must have been fun growing up with characters like that. You reminded me that our Christmas tree is still out in the yard covered in snow somewhere.

  10. Wait–*crinkly, unwrapping sounds* yes indeed, it is another Freshly Pressed being delivered right to your mailbox. Mucus laughter is always a winning ingredient in a family fable.

    PS–I have a Deutches Mutti also. When we finally meet up for that cup of cocoa I betcha we can swap a dozen mama stories…

    • Ah, from your words to the Presser’s ears. My first and only pressing was way back in 2012!

      And I WOULD like to meet you for cocoa someday; you could help me fulfill my “Meet More Bloggers” Resolution! And to sweeten the deal, I’d even draw you a doodle of a cow.

      • Cocoa and a doodle cow! Now –how to figure how to get back east to collect. As for Freshly Pressed, at least you have one declaim to fame *sniffing sounds of wishfulness*

      • You’ll get Freshly Pressed, my friend.

        And if your Pressing is anything like the one I had, you’ll think to yourself “Why on earth did they pick *that* post? I wrote a jillion posts better than that one!”

  11. I’d write more about the story that climbed from weather-hating mother to a procrastinator father to a too-old Christmas tree and then on to a snow storm (that grew bigger and bigger, like a fish story) and finally a wise-guy young son. But I can’t write more – I’m laughing too hard.

  12. Pam at Rough Wighting put me onto your post after I sent her a link to my dead Christmas tree story. Here’s the link to my story:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/death-to-the-christmas-tree/
    Your story is hilarious and is yet another “dad moment”. I don’t know what it is about Dads but they do some incredible things, don’t they? My Dad looked like actor john Cleese for many years and you could just imagine what that was like.
    I live in greater Sydney, Australia and so for me I am struggling just trying to picture all that snow when our Christmas’s are so hot and you have to keep the water up to it so it doesn’t die die before Christmas. It’s quite a different experience. xx Rowena

  13. Oh my God, Frosty the Snow Dad! I will think of him next time I am shoveling the driveway (or waiting for our plow guy who we only call when it really really snows too, haha!)

    • Since I have become a homeowner, I have never used the services of a Plow Guy. That said, my driveway is about the third of the length of Dad’s so I can truly handle any Snowmageddon that nature can dish out.

      More importantly, I drag my tree to the curb on New Year’s Day. No exceptions.

  14. Brilliant story, Mike. I am giggling away even as I type. Have you thought of submitting this to Reader’s Digest? They’d love it! Thanks for a wonderful start to my day. BTW: Snowy Colorado is sitting at zero inches of accumulation right now–and our Christmas tree went out long ago.

  15. Mike, totally not kidding here—this story and the way you told it had me laughing almost as hard as you must’ve been! I couldn’t catch my breath and got pains in my chest. I felt SO bad for your Dad, but this is one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard! LOL Thanks for the laugh! I’m totally tweeting this lol

  16. Oh my gosh, that will teach me to take a big sip of water while reading your stories! Priceless. Reminded me of my father and mother growing up. We had a couple of those stories too, but I don’t think I could ever do them justice like you have. I’m still laughing.

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  20. Hilarious, Mike. If that was the same blizzard that hit Ohio, it was 1978. The now reached half way up our house. I though it would never go away. Thankfully, Ohio missed this last storm. Today, I ever got outside to play with the dogs. Happy snow day, Mike.

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