Purcell column: Let it snow
We could use a good snowstorm right about now.
I love a good dusting of snow. I love how it disrupts our routines and throws everything out of whack.
I lived in Washington, D.C., for nearly eight years. It delighted me how that city went into a panic every time forecasters predicted a few inches.
Not only are school delays common there, but the federal government often announces delays, too. It sometimes shuts down entirely, giving federal employees paid snow days.
Which is a delicious irony.
You see, Washington is full of self-important people who want to micromanage our lives through government programs, but are hopelessly lost when little white flakes fall from the sky.
I can’t think of anything that might disrupt D.C.’s increasingly partisan nastiness than for the self-important to be humbled. It’s hard not to be humble when you’re shoveling your sidewalk so the postal carrier or your neighbors don’t slip and fall.
Perhaps it’s because I live in the heartland — “flyover country” to some Washingtonians — that I love snow.
In Pittsburgh, you see, we know we can’t control the cold and snow, but we can control how we respond to them.
Our kids immediately appear atop the steepest slopes with a variety of sleds, then spend hours letting nature whip them downhill.
Our grownups abandon their typical routines to clear elderly neighbors’ driveways or bring them hot soup. Invigorated by the crisp air and a good sweat, we use this time to catch up with each other while sipping hot coffee.
One of my most memorable snowstorms happened on Christmas Eve 1976. We were celebrating with my mother’s family at my aunt’s house 20 miles from our home. The snow came down suddenly and thickly, and we knew we were facing a slow, potentially dangerous journey home.
I was 14. My sisters Krissy and Kathy, 17 and 19, were eager to strike out on their own. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last time all five of my sisters and I would ride together to a holiday party.
As we got onto the highway, the roads were already blanketed. It felt like we were in a big sleigh, quietly floating along the hills and valleys of Western Pennsylvania.
My father turned on the radio. Old-time shows were playing. Don Ameche and Frances Langford were performing in “The Bickersons,” a 1940s show in which a married couple got into hilarious arguments.
I remember the wife asking her husband if he’d had breakfast. He said he’d just eaten the oatmeal on the stove. “That isn’t oatmeal,” she said. “I’m wallpapering.”
My sisters, parents, grandmother and I laughed out loud. Later, we asked our grandmother to tell us stories about her childhood and what life was like when families sat around the radio.
It was a perfect night of peace and clarity — one made possible by the snow.
Look, a good snowstorm is a gift from the heavens. It’s intended to puncture our seriousness and self-importance.
As I said, our country could benefit from a good snowstorm right about now.
Copyright 2019 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.
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I wrote this column to share my story through my cultural assets: Aspirational, linguistic, familial, navigational, social, and resistant. I know we all have an open wound in our lives and I want to share…