Snowy days are still delightful
By Susan Caba
A simplified life clears room for friendships and rich memories.
We’re in the midst of a blizzard here in St. Louis, though I suspect those on the East Coast might scoff at a mere 7-12 inches. Temperatures are expected to drop to zero and stay that way through Tuesday.
I like a blizzard.
As far as I’m concerned, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. To me, 12 inches is much better than 2. Okay, you’re asking, why not move to Maine? Let me rephrase–I like an occasional blizzard.
Sitting at my window as I write, I’m reminded of other big snows I’ve experienced. At first I just thought of one and then they piled up like…okay, I won’t go to that particular cliché.
We were living in Bucks County, a little north of Philadelphia. It was early January 1994 and we’d just experienced an ice storm that still ranks as one of the most severe to hit that region. Snow topped by a thick frosting of marzipan-like ice made the world glittery and crunchy underfoot.
I headed for my friend Emilie Lounsberry’s house, about a mile around the corner from me. We were colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the kind of friends that could hang out at one another’s house just drinking wine and watching television. I have to admit there was a brief period when we were known in the newsroom as the Boom-Boom sisters, after we crashed an annual black-tie gathering of judges. (It’s not what you think. We were working, although not exactly undercover.) When I arrived, she was hacking at the frozen snow encrusting her driveway. And she was wearing high-heeled black dress boots.
Emilie had the best sources in the FBI of anyone I’ve ever known. She covered many of the city’s great court scandals and crimes. And she did it in an impeccable style all her own–perfect hair, false eyelashes, perpetual lipstick and floral dresses. A judge once complimented her, from the bench, on something she was wearing. (She was infuriated.)
She almost always wore pumps, so the high-heeled boots were no surprise. Except they were totally inadequate for the aftermath of this three-day ice storm. Emilie wasn’t just shoveling snow, she was trying to chip away at the ice–she may have had a hoe out there, as well as a shovel. Her heels were literally a threat to life and limb.
Thing is, the only non-heels Emilie had were sneakers, as far as I know. I, on the other hand, had discovered snowmobile boots while living in Iowa. Big, clunky, ugly, yes. But incredibly warm. They had removable felt liners like those described in Dr. Zhivago. They kept my feet toasty even during what I called the “nuclear winters” of Iowa, when the high for a day would be -10 degrees.
That ice storm sent Emilie on a quest. A legendary shopper and one-woman lifeline for the Center City Strawbridge & Clothier department store, she knew just what she wanted–“a stylish black-patent boot with the thermal liner.” Here is just a part of her Jan. 28, 1994, story in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Size 7 1/2? Think again, snow-boot breath.
In Center City yesterday, the search was on.Winter-whipped men and women were on the hunt for work boots, hiking boots, galoshes, even high tops–anything to keep feet warm and dry.
Ah, for some snuggly-lined, flat-heeled, waterproof black boots, plain old boring things that wouldn’t catch a discriminating eye a month or two ago.
But now? Forget it. Everyone, it seems, was looking for boots.
And no one was finding them. No one, that is, but Emilie.
This is a woman who made the FBI talk, a reporter who relentlessly pursued corrupt judges and heinous criminals. Citywide boot frenzy or not, Emilie would not rest until she captured her quarry. A good thing, too. The remainder of that winter was snowy and, two years later, we were hit by the Blizzard of 1996–still Philadelphia’s all-time-greatest in terms of accumulation, dumping 30 inches of snow and shutting the city down for a week.
I won’t bore you–yet–with my memories of other storms. Not the 1978 Boston blizzard that changed a friendship into something more, nor the winter in Des Moines that was so cold, you had to wait two days for AAA to come and jump your car.
I probably will take a picture of my Flexible Flyer, hanging on nails in the basement. We six kids got two for Christmas one year. My dad used his gift from us–a wood-burning tool–to etch our name on the sleds in block letters.
Can you say “Rosebud?”