I lived in New Hampshire for four winters and every one was a struggle against the elements. Frost heaves would push up under my kitchen floor and the cupboards would hang on the diagonal until spring. One couldn’t sit on the upstairs toilet without listing dangerously to starboard and if I left the house for a weekend, I would spend an hour shoveling my way INTO the driveway when I came back.
Within weeks of my arrival in the Granite State, I drove home from work one night during a snowstorm. There was black ice under freshly fallen snow and I turned the wheel of my Subaru to the right only to have the car fishtail to the left and slide off the road into a ravine. The car landed nearly perpendicular, the steering-wheel an inch from my chest. My nose was broken and I had a deep cut in my eyebrow. I survived, but the car did not.
It was fortunate that the accident happened a quarter of a mile from my house. I was able to climb out of the ravine and back onto the road. Apart from the fact that I was all banged up, it was an easy walk home. It was also fortunate that it was 3 o’clock in the morning because I was covered in blood but my two kids weren’t awake to see it. My intuitive son heard me come in and appeared at the top of the stairs. “Mom?” he said in a worried voice.
“I had a car accident, but I’m fine,” I told him from the shadows. “Go back to bed. I’m fine, really. I’ll see you in the morning.”
The next day I was battered and bruised, with two black eyes. I ached all over and looked like the Elephant Man. My son was so rattled by my appearance that he stayed home from school.
On another winter evening, my son called and asked me to pick him up from basketball because he’d missed the late bus. I wasn’t happy about it because his school was a 30-minute drive away and it was brutally cold out. In fact, the roads were a solid sheet of black ice. My car shimmied and fishtailed the entire distance and I cried the whole way.
On the way back, the car got stuck going up a hill. We were in a line of cars, all of which were unable to make the incline. The hill was too steep and there was no traction on the ice. When my son got out to see what was going on, his feet flew up into the air and he landed flat on his back on the ice but, being a teenager, he was uninjured. An hour later, a sand truck arrived and one by one the cars were able to get up the hill. We followed that truck all the way home.
Another time, driving through the White Mountains on curving roads covered with icy slush, I slid off the road again. This time both of my kids were with me. No one was hurt, but it took six hours for the tow-truck to get us out.
Snow-days are almost unheard of in New Hampshire. The school-bus would roll up to the house in the morning with chains on the tires, plowing up feet of snow. My daughter, dressed in her shocking-pink snowsuit, would push through hip or waist-high snow to climb onto the bus. Businesses stayed open. People went to work. Life went on. Locals told me that the winter before my arrival, the snow was banked up so high on both sides of the road that you couldn’t see the houses. One of my neighbors said there were still patches of snow under the tree in her backyard on July 4th.
My first winter in New Hampshire was the winter of that ice-storm where all those people in Canada and Maine died. Remember? People in the North were without power for weeks. I could stand on my front porch and listen to trees cracking, splitting and falling over. A friend who was a forester moved to Europe because he couldn’t stand watching the devastation of the forest he’d given his life to.
My house was without power for five days that winter. My children moved to the home of a neighbor who had a generator, while I slept under a down comforter with a Santa hat on my head; the temperature in my bedroom was a brisk 30 degrees.
New Hampshire-ites are a tough and fearless people. As for me, my idea of a weather challenge is finding the right umbrella to carry on Rodeo Drive.
New Hampshire in the summer is Paradise, but I never got used to being the lead car in a caravan on roads thick with snow. I would be driving a sane 40 miles per hour and car after car would shoot past me at 60 or 70, giving me the finger, shaking their fists, shouting rude remarks.
Moving to Connecticut was a relief and a revelation. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover an entire state as scared of bad weather as I am! But it would appear that I have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. I am no longer the lead car in winter caravans; I am now the one shaking my fist. Three snowflakes and school is canceled. Six and the library closes. The few cars still on the road drive no more than 30 miles an hour.
I do wish these Southern New England weather-people would learn to do their jobs. Is that asking too much? If so, then perhaps they could recycle themselves into professions where they might be of some actual use. And if these soothsayers are unwilling to relinquish the thrill of predicting the future, then they should at least invest in a turban and a crystal ball and do it right.
Take today’s “snowstorm,” for example. Last night at midnight, the weather reports on the radio, on television and on the internet were the same: “A Nor’easter she’s a-comin’!! Batten down the hatches!! Lash yourselves to the mainmast!! Make sure you have plenty of rum and whale-blubber aboard!! Prepare for the worst!!”
Twenty-four hours later, as I look out the French doors of my dining-room into the winter twilight, there is perhaps a quarter of an inch of snow on the ground. And yet, I can hear the weatherman on the television in the other room. His tone is dramatic. This is a MASSIVE storm, he’s saying. “Batten down the hatches!! It’s bad out there!!”
I’ll tell you – it’s enough to make a person miss New Hampshire.