A Southern Snow

Winter. A true Southerner knows it better than anyone. We respect winter.

Because we recognize exactly where it fits into the calendar year.

It doesn’t. It is so brief and so unpredictable that it hardly qualifies as a bonafide season at all. 

But even though the unusual cold and precipitation might last just a few measly weeks, we love making the most of it.

We see winter as the perfect opportunity to display our uniquely Southern take on things.

Everyone knows we are a colorful, friendly bunch, and oftentimes a tad dramatic. Let’s just say we aren’t afraid of being the overdressed one at the party or a little too loud, and oftentimes we may be a bit much.

Our famous y’all drawl might sound ignorant to some but it is our secret handshake, with nuances and inflection that only we are privy to. We see it as a code phrase to enter our private club.

But it basically lets you know that we are different than you, and we like it that way.

But back to seasons.

Down here we see spring, summer and fall expressed a little bit like ourselves: dripping with genteel charm: outgoing and warm.

Especially so in the summertime.

The long weeks of heat and humidity that others find unbearable, we see as a time to show off, to embrace the humid, sweaty lethargy.

We are like blowsy, overscented magnolias or gardenias – unique and over the top.

In contrast, wintertime lacks that same sociable display for us. It is more of a blip in our slow paced year.

But yet we rise to the challenge and gamely showcase our grit(s).

It is our chance to shine.

In the rare event we actually get a real snowstorm, we do our best to make it a southern style event.

A mere sniff of precipitation in the forecast?  We are on the phone and on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter, working ourselves into a frenzy.

We race to the Harris Teeter to buy milk and bread, but mostly to sidle up to strangers’ shopping carts and talk about the impending crisis.

Because even an inch of the white stuff – wet and slushy at that – is a recipe for stalled cars, live power lines, sledding accidents behind pickup trucks, basically all manners of clusterf*ck.

Oh and the power going out, always the power.

Northerners, in their smug superiority, look down their noses at all of our shenanigans, of course. They watch our crazed activity and laugh, they talk about the avalanches of snow they have easily endured back home in the tundra.

Hah. They don’t realize that it doesn’t take that much snow to cause serious mayhem.

We know how.

So after stocking up on supplies, we settle in to wait and gather our necessities.

First off, where are the sleds we bought back in the 90s?

Don’t bother going to the hardware store to buy one; those price-gougers are just waiting to ream you out, they’ve waited years for this opportunity. They’re dusting off those heavy wood toboggans and adjusting the prices accordingly.

No matter, we can always improvise: plastic cafeteria trays, shovels, even trash bags can get you up to speed. I remember wrapping a roll of wax paper around my lower body one year and I flew.

Our city neighborhood streets never close and so we must assume that the vehicles will yield to us as we sled on down. Let me just say that there’s nothing more hair-raising than swooshing down the big hill, blindly heading into that unmarked intersection, not really certain at all.

Brings the hot blood back into the extremities, I can tell you.

And of course every year there are casualties. But we don’t like to talk about them: the sleds clipped by car bumpers, the fishtailed cars sliding into fences, people run down while walking in the middle of the road.

We keep quiet about these because they reinforce our reputation as idiots.

But we know in our hearts that we are just over-the-top, eccentric thrill-lovers with a colorful sense of style.

Meanwhile the northern transplants quietly wax their cross-country skis and wait. Well, fat chance that there will be enough accumulation for that.

But if so, we will snicker at them as they glide by on the side walks, wearing their ugly hats with earflaps and untied strings. And all that technical gear from their trip to Iceland, looking serious, like they are competing in the Olympics for crying out loud.

But driving is where things get fun.

If you have a four-wheel drive this is the one shining moment you’ve been waiting for.

You will be the true hero of the storm – stopping to give a lift to strangers, rope towing cars out of ditches, but mainly just out there showing off, YEE -HAH, demonstrating how it’s done. Oh, and pulling our kids behind them on metal saucers.

On the other hand, we are mere mortals when it comes to southern black ice, a common thing for us. People up north have no idea.

What – the roads look clear? Hah. Try cruising down that slope. You will slide and careen and your car will levitate so fast you’ll be in traction within the hour.

But these dust-ups only serve as safety tests for the rest of us waiting it out indoors. When we see that huge monster truck in the ditch at a 45 degree angle, we know it’s a little too soon to venture out.

Which is what we are dying to do.

A few days indoors is really all a southern flower can enjoy – like the dainty crocus we can only tolerate brief dustings. Too much is just too much.

We really need to get back to the grocery store to talk about the storm.

You lose power? 48 hours for us.

I measured 4 inches on the top of our car – what’d you get?

Ran out of Hershey’s packets, had to make real hot chocolate from scratch.

Everything shuts down, all restaurants and businesses.

Except our local diner on 9th Street, Elmo’s, God bless them. They never fail to keep the grill hot for any snowbound neighbor who manages to navigate the walk to their door.

And once there, you will see all manner of types, folks you’ve only smiled at from cars, neighbors you haven’t really spoken to in years.

And they will slide into the booth to chat, mostly about the snow. The snow brings us together, we are hearty survivors and have our tales to tell.

When the power goes off the main issue is food. This is where the big backyard grilles come in. We fire them up in the front yard and cook up all of the green meat from years back. Invite the neighbors to share.

And the northerners smirk and make fun – it’s only a dusting, they say. Again, they just don’t see the possibilities for dramatic chaos.

School has been out for 2 weeks already, having been cancelled days before any actual weather. The kids are squirrelly and so are we.

The delight has worn thin, we want back in our cars. We can’t wait to get that wet stuff off of them and peal out, go anywhere, just to get the hell out of there.

Which brings me to the worst aspect of all: clearing the car windshield.

I have never in my life owned an ice scraper. The one I once had was long ago swiped to brush leaves off the back deck. And so I must use the hem of my coat sleeve to do the bulk of the work; my dad taught me that.

But you really only need a small hole to see out of.  Mostly I like the devil-may-care thrill I feel when backing down the driveway with no real view. I’m like a submarine in a white ocean with only a porthole with which to navigate.

Like I said, we like danger and drama and flamboyant excess down here.

Snow is temporary, even rare, so let’s carry on like imbeciles and do it up big.

Why play it cool and be all nonchalant with coordinating North Face outfits when we can whoop it up like fools in our sweatpants layered over wet jeans and windbreakers.

Don’t take it so seriously you northern folks – it’s only a little bit of snow.

Now a hurricane, that’s a whole other beast. That is a true storm.

Forget silly snow, just let me tell you some things about the hurricane season, Yankee.

Now that’s a real season.

5 thoughts on “A Southern Snow

  1. This is wonderful Beth! Having lived in both climates, and now in something like the inbetween of the two, I appreciate your powers of observation and descriptions! I come down sometimes to check on and do things at my house – yes, the Southwood drive home that is now rented to 3 lovely Duke Divinity students, so perhaps we can get together – let’s make it Elmo’s! I will probably be down mid March. My phone number now is 240-676-8199 so give me a call anytime! Cheers! Mary Akeley
    PS Peter is still in Atlanta and doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my GOD, Beth – this is hysterical!! You are the brightest bulb in the marquee, darlin’! It almost hurts to read the painful details of what happens to Southerners beholding massive snow emergencies – a full 2 inches sending every car into the ditch. Did I tell you about the Great New Orleans Snowfall of ’56? All 5 of us kids scooped up the snow from our entire yard and made a snowman about 3 feet tall and posed for pictures with it. Our pulses were racing for a week. I miss your humor so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading this was a fun-way to begin the day. There is no snow here in Charleston, WV, so reading your Southern take on winter was like a long sled ride through Durham. But now that I’m off the sled, please let your readers know if people in the South skinny dip in their hot tubs. Any firsthand knowledge about that?

    Liked by 1 person

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