I’ve heard both the praise and the complaints of this unusual Iowa winter weather; “Where is our snow?” and “Isn’t this beautiful weather?” Along with, “Can you believe this weather in January? Isn’t it crazy?” No snow, and extreme above-average temperatures~ there will be no complaints from me. I have loved being able to ride my bicycle to the library, hanging laundry on the line, and going everywhere without a coat.
I remember this kind of weather one other year in my adulthood. It was 1981, and both my husband David and I were college students at UNI, living in married student housing with our young son, Danny. This is a photo of me taking little Danny for a walk on the UNI campus. It was January, and I remember marveling to my husband that I could get by with just a sweater on a January day.
I remember a lot of things, looking at this photo; the jeans I wore were too long and they skimmed the sidewalk when I walked, fraying at the edges. The sweater was a cotton blend but still itched a bit, the brown purse a cheap plastic. I couldn’t know it then, but Dan would be one of the few of our eight babies who would leave his hats on when we pulled them onto his little round head. Our second child, our daughter Elizabeth, was also a compliant baby and toddler in this regard, even submitting to the donning of a soft fur hat with large fuzzy balls on the ends of the ties and a matching fur muff to cover her hands. Dan also eagerly stuck out his little chubby foot for shoes and socks whenever he heard the word “outside,” which he did almost daily that particular winter.
Yesterday morning, with Iowa temperatures in the balmy range we’ve all gotten used to, the weather forecast was startling in its predictions; 3-6 inches of snow, wind, sub-zero wind chills. We were bound to get this at some point. In fact, we expected it. Perhaps even anticipated it? For despite the agreeability of a mild winter, there is no denying that tiny thrill at the first snowfall. I woke up this morning long before everyone else, wanting to see what had transpired outside while we slept. It was obvious it had snowed; I could see the white garage roof on my way down the stairs. But how much? Would it be enough to use the snow blower my husband had bought me for my birthday? Would it be snowman snow? Snow-angel depth? This was the view from my front door; the white stuff covering the sidewalks and road, a view that includes my son’s house across the street.
The forecast is for continued snowfall and blowing winds. It won’t be long before that little boy in the stroller in the photo, now 31 and refusing to wear a hat most winter days, steps outside his door to clean his sidewalks. I’ll be outside, too, trying out the new toy my husband bought to save my back. (Since we moved to town I have volunteered for the snow-shoveling chore, relishing the fresh cold air and the excuse for some good physical labor, but last year I hurt my back in doing so) Maybe we’ll call out to each other across the street, lamenting the abrupt arrival of a long-overdue Iowa winter. Despite the fact that I am aware of how eager Dan is to break free from Manchester, I relish living across the street from my firstborn and seeing him on a regular basis, having a son as a neighbor. He’s a hard worker; he often pitches in to clean an elderly neighbor’s driveway. I might see him out the window later today, pausing from the exertion of shoveling snow. He’ll look up to the sky, wondering how much more snow to expect. He’ll spot his mother’s face in the window and wave. I’ll wave back, not seeing my adult son, but instead seeing that little boy in the stroller, laughing the boisterous, contagious laugh he has retained.
And I’ll remember that long-ago winter, the last winter I remember like this, the winter of 1981.