Storms offer a chance to bond with neighbors and strangers

Friday, February 12, 2010; B02

Okay, let's face it: We've all had enough of the plowing, shoveling and all-around hunkering-down brought on by the Blizzard(s) of 2010.

Sure, people in northern climes are mocking us, but we can all agree that this is no mere 2-inch snowfall that throws the region into a panic. What is nice in small quantities is now a real nuisance.

I don't even want to watch the Winter Olympics.

I've had enough.

But during this Storm of the Century, something beautiful happens.

After Round 1 last week, I find myself with several neighbors, including one who moved in last summer and who I haven't met until now, enjoying the fresh blanket of snow.

As if on cue, the sun is shining in a bright-blue sky.

There we are, men and women, young and old, shoveling our way out of our caves back to civilization.

"Isn't it beautiful?"

"I almost hate to leave any footsteps."

"Do you need another shovel?"

"Here, I'm taking pictures. Smile!"

We are survivors. We smile and take time to chat. We all have stories to tell. Of trees that might not make it. Pets trying to navigate the new scene. Roofs that we hope can withstand the weight of all that snow.

But the view is pretty, sparkling in the sunlight.

Like people in a Norman Rockwell image, we are enjoying the landscape. Walking dogs, building snowmen and enjoying the view as time stands still. There is no rush. There is nowhere to go. Errands are put on hold. For many of us, offices are closed. It's the perfect excuse to do nothing. Well, except for shoveling.

And something else happens.

During a normally quiet season, friends are calling.

Come over!

Have a drink.

Cocktails are enjoyed well before 5 p.m.

Stay for dinner.

It's the birth of the snow party.

Potluck was never so potluck.

There is no theme. Fancy Mediterranean menus go out the window in favor of comfort food. Hot dogs, casseroles, brownies, beer, frozen pizza, chicken soup and deviled eggs never tasted so good.

It's like summer but with boots and slush and hundreds of kids running around inside. We exchange shoveling stories and share dreams of summer travel plans.

The humor and goodwill flow. It's magic. This isn't so bad.

But, as in "The Perfect Storm," our proverbial eye of the hurricane is brief. We gear up for Round 2. This time, we don't even bother going to the store. We have the major essentials like wine and beer.

Our sore joints have healed, and we know what lies ahead. This time, I will use my legs more and save my lower back. The snowbanks along our street are high. And brown. They look like they will be here forever.

I think of my grandparents, who endured Syracuse winters all their lives. Visiting them every Easter and seeing dirty snow, I couldn't imagine living in that climate. Ever. Any dreams I ever had of a life in Montana and Alaska are gone. Evaporated.

As I look at our own grimy-turning snow, I can't whine. Even though it doesn't feel like it, it's temporary.

Crocuses will poke out of the earth, and the cherry blossoms will bloom. Busy schedules will resume, and there won't be enough time in our ever-lengthening days to do what we want to do.

And before we know it, we will be complaining about the famous Washington area humidity and wondering whether fall will ever arrive.

-- Kristina Tatusko Henry,


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