South Georgia Snow Day

It is snowing outside, and we’re all hunkered down in the house. Snow is not something we see a whole lot of here in north Georgia.

I grew up in Columbus, Georgia, which is south of my present home and just below the fall line. Waking up to find snow in your yard, in Columbus, was really unusual. Not like finding a meteorite in your yard, but close. Here is what I remember about snow days in Columbus.

My dad wore jeans.

This was huge. Dad didn’t wear jeans. Ever. Dad wore button-up shirts, navy blue dress pants, and wingtips, Every. Single. Day. At night he wore the very traditional sort of mens’ pajamas that were worn by dads in black and white television programs like Leave It To Beaver (but never by the fathers of my friends, who all, by my friends’ reports, slept in boxer shorts and t-shirts).

I didn’t know dad owned a pair of jeans until it snowed one year. Several ice-heavy branches had broken free from the trees in the back yard and had landed in our driveway. Dad came outside in jeans and work boots (work boots! – another thing I didn’t know he owned) to clear the tree limbs from the driveway. Anyway, it blew my mind; there was this other side of my dad that I didn’t know about. He owned denim. It was like finding out he had a tail.

My snow cones were dirty.

Whenever it snowed, I always tried to scoop up a cup’s-worth of the tiny flakes and saturate them in koolaid so as to make a real snow cone. I don’t recall my brother, Scott, working on this endeavor with me. Scott and I were classically divided by our gender with regard to what was and wasn’t worth playing. Snow was an opportunity for me to “cook” something new, to have a little winter-themed tea party. Snow would have been an opportunity for Scott to reenact the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.

(If you don’t have access to an actual tauntaun, you can straddle a retaining wall or swing. Or a neighbor’s Labrador Retriever.)

There was never enough accumulation in Columbus for gathering clean snow. Never more than an inch or so. The snow I scooped always contained little bits of dead grass, dirt and pinestraw. It took forever to get the cup full, especially since Scott was off riding a tauntaun or fighting off wampas instead of helping. I’d bring the hard-earned snow inside, and my mother would say, “Ging, you don’t want to eat this. It’s full of trash.” She’d pour the koolaid over the dirty snow anyway. I’d take a couple of small, cautious scoops with my spoon – try to get a trash-free bite or two. After that I’d generally dump it out and drink a plain glass of koolaid.

We’d have a kerosene lantern in every room in the house.

My dad’s favorite fantasy was (is) that he will, through thoughtful preparation, save his wife and children (and now grandchildren) in the event of an end of the world-caliber storm, alien invasion or government breakdown. The degree to which I am exaggerating is slight. Dad was not (is not) an overtly affectionate man, there was never a lot of mushy “daddy’s girl” talk in our house, but I always knew I was loved. He had his own way of showing it. One of the ways I knew was in the ridiculous number of kerosene lamps we owned.

The power-outages were never particularly inconvenient.

My childhood home had a gas stove, so mom still had to cook for us when the power was out. (Moms never catch a break.) Our hot water heater was also gas powered, so we were able to take hot showers. We had a wood-burning fireplace. Since it was very close in proximity to Dad’s chair, and since Dad was never cold, we almost never built a fire. Power outages were the rare occasion on which my parents built a fire. I always thought this was lots of fun.

At night, when the power was out, I remember sleeping so soundly. The house would be remarkably dark, free from the glow of digital alarm clocks and such. And so quiet. All those sounds the house normally made, the sound of the heater, the ice maker, whatever. They all took the night off when the power was out.

We had ugly hats and gloves.

Our hats, scarves, gloves and mittens were all kept in the lower drawer of Dad’s bedside table, and they were the same hats, scarves, gloves and mittens every year. These were not accessories we updated regularly due to the infrequency with which they were worn. Anyway, they were ugly, that is what I’m getting at. My brother and I were desperate to get outside, though, so we didn’t get to hung up on it. I recall there were two knit hats: the blue and orange hat said “AU” for the Auburn Tigers, and the other, which was red and blue, had the Tom’s potato chip logo on it.

(This, but knitted into a hat.)

Scott and I both favored the Auburn hat at the time. Now that I’m a UGA graduate, I think I would be okay giving the AU hat to Scott.

I wonder what my kids will remember about cold, snowy days like today once they are grown. I hope they remember them as warmly as I do the snow days of my childhood.

(Scott and me circa 1979)


13 Comments on “South Georgia Snow Day

  1. I went to college in Columbus. It only snowed once while I lived there, but it was the most exciting day ever. Now I’m in the mess in Atlanta, and it’s not as exciting. I hope you stay warm!

  2. Cute stories. We get a bit more snow up here in VA, but it still shuts down my part of the state. My school didn’t shut down one day a few weeks ago when everyone else did, and everyone raised holy hell, so now they’re overcompensating by shutting down before it even starts to snow.

  3. My daughter tried to make some trashy snow apples today. I am more inclined of just let her eat them and then notice that they don’t taste very good, but my husband couldn’t abide it and made her spit out the snow with grass and stuff in it. Incidentally, he never wears jeans either 😉

  4. You need to experience a real winter. Even better than koolaid, is putting maple syrup (from last year’s batch) on the snow. If you ever feel the burning need to head to Upstate NY for a few days of snow, my parent’s house is always available (and they’ve hosted my internet friends multiple times, haha).

    Thank you for your stories.

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