Snowpocalypse: Magic and Manic

Shanan Tolzin (photo taken by James Kline)

I have written a version of this essay every time there has been a major snow: December 10, 2012 … December 16, 2016 … January 26, 2018 … February 8, 2019 … February 14, 2020. Will I ever stop editing this essay? Will we ever NOT have a major snow? Time to just send it out and see if it lands somewhere!

The first burning (or is that freezing?) question is: Can my day possibly get more challenging after the first serious twelve-inch snowfall of the year?  My two girls and I are grossly out of practice in Snow Navigation 101.  

The second pesky problem is finding my missing glasses. I pop my contacts in, ignoring the fact that my eyes in this weather are Sahara dry and rosy red.  

Third, my sweet kids stubbornly do not want to emerge from their long winter’s slumber due to the exhausting, albeit inspiring, nature of a weekend acting in the Christmas play, “Rock Nativity.”   

The final question of the morning is, how could I so mistakenly dream of getting everyone up and where they need to be on time?

The morning actually began last night, silently, secretly, in the tundra, as it snowed lightly at first. My car steadily slipped, faltered, and proved — as if I needed reminding —  that Minnesota is no place for a vehicle that lacks front-wheel drive and has bald tires. 

By morning, my parked car was firmly entrenched in the road, covered from stem to stern.  After a wild party of scraping, shoveling and sweating, we were ready to simply move to the other side of the street in time for the first official Snow Emergency of the year.  

Snow Emergency in Minneapolis is a big game of chess the city plays with all of us unlucky enough to need to park on the street.  The dance moves are: park on the north, park on the south, speed up, brake down, and never ever park on a snow emergency route.  We begin to exist in a state of alert, sensitive to the whims of the city, ears to the evening news, hopefully avoiding car removal to the impound lot.

Currently, on this particular 12 degree morning, I can be found prying my car loose amid much rubber burning and disgruntled snorts of “Mother F” and “Son of a B!”  

I heave a great sigh of relief when it moves — until I realized that I have to get to work!  I run into the house, a marathoner in sweats, with mismatched gloves and hat askew covering staticky hair. I am wearing zero — I repeat zero — makeup.  

In the blink of an eye, I am by the slightest margin minimally presentable and race out the door.  By now, I am exceedingly late for work, but comfort myself with the thought that there are stale cookies in my glove compartment, a delicious and nutritious breakfast fit for a queen.  

Within blocks I am stuck in a mountainous snow pile that guards the entry point to my intersection.  When I attempt to phone the office, I discover that my phone is out of airtime.  I recently entered the world of pay-by-the-month phone time, which has to be paid for on a timely basis.  This means, as someone not great with schedules, that every month I have a phone crisis, like this morning, when I am out of air time.

Another “Mother F” escapes my dainty lips. Bring it on! I turn on the loudest, most radical Irish music I can find, by the inimitable Irish Rovers, and belt out “Bells over Belfast” while frantically shoveling my beast out of its latest snowy prison. 

How has the snow gone from magical beauty to maniacal in one short 24-hour period?  

I know how wonderful this can be — people coming together to shovel each other out, not in a hurry, taking leisurely snow walks marveling at the glistening, twinkling yards and snow-glazed tree tops. 

From another perspective, I think that Snow Emergency is one of the best reasons to have a husband, wife, or team of robotic helpers. Everyone really does need staff in this wintry town, including numerous functioning vehicles, snowmobiles, skis, and sled dogs to effectively navigate.  

Since I am one of the lone, unmarried moms, I suck up the agony of it all, and make sure I have coffee and swear words available for secret moments when I am sans kids.  

It is Minne-snow-ta winter and I am the general of this operation! 

To make a long story short, I finally made it to work, after much slipping, sliding, and challenging driving that could qualify me for the Monster Truck races. I decide to park in a costly, luxurious parking facility, paid for with the last of my laundry quarters. 

Huffing and puffing, I roll into the office, a veritable Medusa of the Midwest, ready to claim my place among more fastidiously groomed co-workers who apparently reside off the skyway in downtown Minneapolis luxury condos, and seem to manage to avoid unnecessary missions into the dehumanizing Minnesota winter.   

Note to any non-midwesterners reading this: the skyway is a human habitrail designed to prevent one from ever setting foot in the natural environment.  All needs including work, home, gym, retail shopping, bar, and grocery store can be easily accessed from these complex tubes.  

But I digress. I am taking deep cleansing breaths, as recommended by a yoga podcast, appreciating my serene haven of an office, while basking in the random compliment from someone in management about my “nice outfit.”  Who says I can’t rock the last minute?    

Yet to come, will I win the race and make it to the girls’ school in time for end-of-school-day pickup? Will black ice make the road a skating rink on the return trip? What in the name of Nanook will we have for dinner? Will it be frozen delicacies, miraculously reheated, or tempting take-out cuisine? Will my girls be model housework helpers or pre-teen divas, jockeying for independence and supremacy? Will they treat each other kindly, or will wrestling finals take place in my living room? Will tonight’s math homework be an exercise in googling and brain freeze? 

And on it goes. I will weather on.

Stay blessed and keep dreaming of Hawaii.  

Love, Mama Shan  

P.S.  I own snow tires now.