Southerners may not have tools for cold weather, but we improvise

Published 12:00am Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Say snow in South Alabama and we plain go crazy. It’s a weird kind of excitement that overtakes us. It’s a mix of the joyous anticipation of Christmas and the anxiety related to an approaching hurricane.

Of course, as I write this, there is another word cycling around– ICE. There is no joyous anticipation when I hear ice storm.

How well I remember February 1973 when forecasters predicted ice and snow. I heard snow and had not a clue of what it meant if icy stuff arrives ahead of fun fluffy stuff.

At the time, my oldest child was a toddler and I was expecting my second child in a few weeks. The night before the storm, I described to my daughter what we might see in the morning. It was a description of a wonderland where we’d build snowmen, taste falling snow on our tongues and drink hot chocolate.

What we woke to was something different. In the early hours, rain quickly turned to ice as it moved through the thick clouds. Soon there was a coating of ice on everything, including power lines.

I’d never seen icicles before, well except for the fake ones on the Christmas tree. That morning icicles hung from tree limbs and pulled power lines toward the ground with their weight. By the time the ice turned to snow, there was no electricity in the neighborhood.

Of course, the kids didn’t care. Bundled up so tight they could hardly move, they tossed snowballs, slide around on icy sidewalks and had a ball — the grownups — not so much.

One thing I didn’t take into account when I told my child about the wonders of toddling around in snow was the incredible wetness of snow. Now living in the South, we don’t own shoes for slogging around in winter precipitation.

My excited child jumped up and down as she watched the older kids playing outside. This was a record snow and it piled up in drifts deep enough to reach an adult’s ankles.

For a 17-month-old child, that equates to snow almost up to the knees. Since I was close to nine months pregnant, carrying her around was not an option. So, we got inventive.

My mother rummaged through her pantry and came up with two big plastic bags. (This was back when stores still used paper bags and everyone didn’t have a stash of plastic ones with Walmart stamped on them).

Once we had the bags, the challenge was keeping keep them on her legs. Again, Mother, a creative woman, came to the rescue. This time she dug in her “junk” drawer and found two large rubber bands.

We slid the bags over my child’s shoes and up to the middle of her little legs. Then we managed to secure them with the rubber bands.

Yes, it looked strange, but it worked. Well it worked except for the fact that plastic on ice is somewhat slippery. My baby didn’t care one bit. Out she went to explore a world that was a wonderland of white.

The snow continued most of the morning and into early afternoon. We caught a break and the power came back on at our house so we settled into a peaceful sleep in a warm house.

Early the next day, the sun returned, the temperatures rose and wonderland melted. By afternoon, the only evidence of the storm was a few patches of snow piled up in the shade on under the bushes. Within two days, the temperatures were in the 60s, life was back to normal and we had a story about the winter storm of ‘73.

Who knows what the story of the much-anticipated storm they say is coming will be by the time these words make it into print. Maybe it will be one for the record books or fizzle out and our excitement/anxiety/craziness will be for naught.

Still, I think I’ll see if I have any spare Walmart bags and rubber bands.

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