I’ve got a thing for winter. And that’s good considering that I live in Michigan and we’ve recently had a lot of snow, cold, and ice. Sometimes I meet people who talk about how much they hate winter. I always wonder why they live in Michigan, where you might as well embrace the possibility of dense snow, freezing rain, or subzero wind chill.

Of course, I’m biased, having been a school teacher for quite a number of years.  Snow days always kept me off the road during inclement weather. My early teaching years were spent in Chicago, where snow days were a real rarity. But in Michigan, snow days are a reality and a certain bonus for most teachers, especially when the call comes the night before or early that morning. It’s not so exciting to find out when you’re already in the shower. I found out recently that this late call stuff happens to kids too, and is also a bit of a let-down.

When I was a kid we didn’t have cell phones or weather apps. We had maybe four television channels and if bad weather was coming, a map of Michigan would show up in the corner of the TV screen, usually with the areas affected in white or blue That’s how we knew something was about to happen. We watched TV from the time we got home from school until we went to bed, because face it, other than reading a book, or playing a board game with your siblings, that was often all there was to do. On bad weather mornings, if our parents woke us up, we could always watch the school and other closings on a ribbon that ran on the bottom of our television screen. It was in alphabetical order by town, so if you missed your school, you had to wait for the ribbon to scroll back around. This isn’t the last time I’m going to write about the good old days, so be prepared… (We also wore bread bags in our boots to keep our feet dry, but never had to walk three miles to school in three feet of snow, like our parents boasted.)

In my classroom we used a weather app to do all kinds of math and science related activities. How much snow was predicted? How much did we get? What was the total accumulation? Students were always excited for heavy snow: to get a day off, to maybe mess around in the excitement of shoveling a sidewalk, building a snowman or a fort, sledding down a hill, or having a snow ball fight.

Snow is just pretty. Who hasn’t looked out a window or even gone outside to marvel at the white stuff coming down? Winter in the Midwest can be a sad place without snow: bare trees, cloudy days, sometimes mud, no color, just mostly brown. But a sunny day with snow just brightens up a person’s mood.

When people talk about blizzards or snowmageddons of the past they usual express excitement and a sort of pride for having lived through it. Anybody from Michigan who is over 55 or so can probably tell you about the Blizzard of 78 with a smile and glee. That year most of Michigan got about 30 inches of snow in about 24 hours. Roads were impassable despite many a man heading out to the store to buy milk or get to work or some other folly. Stories of the snow coming half way up a front door or of people being stuck at home for days abound. I remember that my dad got stuck in the snow coming home from bowling and left his bowling ball in the car. A neighbor came on his snowmobile to get his bowling ball out, thinking that thing might freeze in the cold.

Image from the Winter of 1978 in Michigan when the snow was so deep that you couldn't see out across the landscape when driving down the roads. Truly a memorable Michigan moment in history.

Recently I talked to a California transplant about Michigan winters and warned him about the white out in a neighboring town. Anybody from around here knows that there’s a part of the highway heading north that isn’t bordered by trees or buildings, but by flat fields. When the snow comes there’s nothing to block it, and the wind creates about four miles or so of terrible blowing and drifting snow, in other words, a white-out. If you are a local you know which roads to avoid and which to take during the winter months. I think we own that knowledge, that connection with the land, with history. Just like we own the stories of the Blizzard of 78 or any other bad winter or period of power outage or being stuck in a snow drift and pulled out by a neighbor. That’s Michigan in winter, and that’s a part of us.

One Comment

  1. Alice Kielau March 16, 2024 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    I’m so glad there are winter lovers like yourself, Sharon. I am one of those on the other side of the snowbank. A winter hater. Let me explain my ready 4 you kick me off your blog… I have secondhand smoke related COPD and asthma and the cold weather tends to cause my lungs to not want to work properly. They just sort of tighten up and won’t expand like they need to for breathing with any amount of ease. I love the sun shining on the new powder or on a bush covered with ice. I love to think about sitting in the 3 season room at the Nora Hagen House at GOCC looking out as I sit all tucked in that comfortable wicker chaise while I would sip a tea or hot chocolate. All my dreams from here in mobile mansion land.

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