Letter from the Editor: Winter and I have been a snow-go for a long time

  • The visibility when I hit the crop circle/snowdrift was only a little better than this. Maybe that's an exaggeration. Who is to say. But I'm pretty sure there were also polar bears blocking the road ahead. It was just a dangerous night all the way around.

    The visibility when I hit the crop circle/snowdrift was only a little better than this. Maybe that's an exaggeration. Who is to say. But I'm pretty sure there were also polar bears blocking the road ahead. It was just a dangerous night all the way around. Daily Herald File photo, February 2011

  • Melynda Findlay-Shamie

    Melynda Findlay-Shamie

 
 
Updated 1/27/2021 9:21 PM

The snowfall in the Chicago area this week was the biggest we've had since April of 2019.

Weirdly, I actually remember that snow pretty well -- it was a Saturday pretty late in the month, and I was working. The weather was terrible and my teeny hamster-powered pop can of a car couldn't get up the yet-unplowed ramp of our parking garage, so my husband, Brian, had to drive me to work.

 

On the upside, though, I also accidentally wrote one of my favorite headlines of all time that day: "Well, these weren't the April showers we were expecting."

It isn't exactly the New York Posts's famous "Headless body found in topless bar," but it was pretty good.

So, anyway, I was talking about snow, not headlines.

Me and snow, man. Relationship: It's complicated.

You wouldn't expect it, seeing as how I am a suburban native (it's not like I moved here from Los Angeles and was dropped into this dumb weather!) and I was born in December (I think I'm required by law to love snow and possibly also be very good at gift wrapping? lol, fail on both counts!)

That's right. I'm not snow's biggest fan. We started out on pretty good terms. Like every other kid, the minute I saw flakes coming down, I was out the door and stayed outside until I couldn't feel my face.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

One year for Christmas, I got these weird little skis and ice skates. I used the skis in the drainage ditch near our house (look out, Suzy ChapStick, my run on a one-foot gentle slope was pretty, pretty, pretty epic).

And ice skates! My childhood BFF had a pond right off her backyard, and I got so much use out of them. I spent a lot more time sitting on the ice than actually skating (I am not ... graceful. 15 years of ballet lessons! Right down the drain!) But who cares? It was so much fun.

Every year, I used to make a snowball that my mom would put in the freezer until sometime during the summer. She thought I would play with it, but of course I would go throw it at my neighbor-friend-ish (she deserved it). Somehow, year after year, neither of them ever remembered my secret-evil plan.

And there were also snow days! There was no feeling better than sitting around the radio and hearing "Plainfield District 202 ... is closed." Plainfield was much more rural back then, so it happened a lot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Snow and I were BFFs until the blizzard in January 1979. It ruined Chicago Mayor Bilandic's chance at another term, because he bungled the handling of it.

It also was the beginning of the end of my love of snow.

I think school was canceled until approximately May. Or maybe a week. I'm not sure, but it felt like a long time. And there was, obviously, a blizzardly amount of snow.

While I am taller than average now, I was not back then. (I bet you can see where this is going)

My next door neighbor-friend-ish -- the same one whom I pelted with snowballs in July, and also, if you read last week's column, the one whose dad was pretty mad at "The Soviets" -- called me to come over. So I put on eleventy billion layers of winter clothing and set out in the Hoth-like conditions.

The snow came up to my waist. I had to walk maybe 50 feet or less. But I tripped and fell face first in the snow and somehow got stuck on what I later discovered was part of the neighbor's tree that had fallen in the storm.

So I'm there, stuck in the snow, panicking (which was the main reason I was stuck) for a little kid entire day, so probably three minutes, before my mom realized what had happened.

STRIKE ONE, SNOW.

Strike Two was caused by the aforementioned eleventy billion layers of winter clothing, which my mom made us wear probably until the temperature went above 80 every year. On the coldest days, that included a one-piece snowsuit, hat, mittens, extra pair of socks, and boots.

Those days at school never failed to be the ones we had fire drills or bomb threats (we had sort of a lot of them, now that I think of it. It was the 70s?). EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

As I'm sure you've inferred from my childhood stories here, I was kind of an anxious little kid.

So imagine knowing there was a bomb threat, but also knowing I had to get all these layers on or my mom would somehow know, but there might also be a bomb, but my mom ...

ON MY LAST NERVE HERE, SNOW.

Strike Three didn't come until about 15-ish years ago while driving. I actually learned to drive in snow, so I'm really good at it.

But on this day, things just weren't in my favor. My now-husband and I were in Bloomingdale, and what had started out as flurries was now a full-blown storm. My mom's voice was echoing in my head, saying "watch out for bridge decks, Lindy! They freeze first!"

Visibility wasn't great. Traffic was also not great -- but I had an SUV! With four-wheel drive! I was invincible! (I was THAT driver. I was also young and probably a little more reckless than I should've been, too)

As we're chattering away not paying attention to the road like we should've been, Brian suddenly yells "WATCH OUT FOR THE ..." (long pause)

"CROP CIRCLES!"

Me: WHAT?

Car: SLAM (into a snowdrift)

Me: Crop circles?

Brian: My mind went blank. (shrug)

Nobody was hurt. The car was fine. I had AAA, so somebody came to tow me out of the snow drift.

Now, after all of this, you may think I hate snow, but that's not entirely true. I appreciate a couple of nice sprinkles during the holiday season.

And, as I write this, one of my friends who lives in a really beautiful part of northern California is talking about being able to eat outside this weekend. How great would it be to live there, Brian says when I tell him about it. We've vacationed there, and his cousin used to live in roughly the same area. It's really lovely.

But, ironically, my first answer is the one I always give when anybody talks about moving to a warm climate: I know I'd miss the seasons.

• Melynda has worked at the Daily Herald for 21 years. To this day, Brian has never given her a better explanation for why "CROP CIRCLES!" was the first thing to pop into his head when he meant "Don't hit that snowdrift!" But it's part of his charm.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.