Outside the large storefront windows of the Panera I am sitting in right now, the snow is swirling steadily, a mid-April storm that is bringing a wetted white to the landscape. Not one to groan too much about the weather, unless it is weather that interrupts my mountain biking for too long, I am enjoying the contrasting beauty of the winter whiteness mingling with the early Spring greens. Here in northern Illinois, the buds are just beginning to appear, the grass pushing up and promising the warmer weather to come. Today will be a day to relax in the way God intends, his creation observed from the warmth indoors as well as venturing outside to experience it firsthand.
A friend just texted me to lament the snow, her anxiety rising as she observed the large flakes surging past her window, all from the comforting warmth of her covers. Stay in bed for a while, I encouraged her. I couldn’t help but share with her how much I love these Spring snow storms.
My mind can’t help but go back to this time in 1977, the year of the huge Easter snow and ice storm that brought central Illinois to a two week halt. I don’t remember exactly when the storm hit, just that it was shortly before Easter Sunday. Thick layers of ice coated trees, yards, roads, power lines… everything, so much that we didn’t have power for nearly two weeks. Travel was treacherous, not impossible, but only attempted when necessary. No power also meant no heat in the house, the little bi level house my family lived in quite cold with the unusual weather. We didn’t have a fireplace, so my parents cautiously heated our home with the gas kitchen stove in the evenings, and a Coleman camp heater in our living room when it got really cold. My family huddled around the heater by candlelight, telling stories and singing while Mom played the piano. We didn’t miss the TV too much, rather enjoyed the time without it.
Easter Sunday was special that year. I remember going to church that morning, the church full despite the challenge to travel there (my family walked to church — or rather we half walked, half skated/slid). Families huddled together in the wooden pews to keep warm, the church auditorium candle lit, the atmosphere warm with the quiet that comes when there is no amplification or organ music. Mom played the piano enthusiastically as the congregation sang, the mood worshipful in a way that was special to the moment, people coming together and the stress melting away even as the ice was freezing outside. I remember watching the fog in the air as everyone sang. The scent of bacon and pancakes and eggs drifted up from the church basement as the church elders and deacons cooked the annual Easter sunrise breakfast. Even an ice storm with a power outage could not prevent the annual breakfast from happening. By the time the Easter sunrise service was over, my stomach was growling from hunger, the tempting smells drawing my thoughts away.
Somehow mom managed to get a nice ham with the fixings for our Easter meal. We gathered around the table, snug in our coats, as we ate our meal. The sun came out that day, the storm over, illuminating the bright landscape made even brighter by the ice.
1977 was my sophomore year of high school. Our school Spring break was extended a week by the power outage and ice. Even though my friends and I reveled outside during the break, I was anxious about going back to school. The unplanned school closing meant that the first two track meets of the season would be cancelled, something I was looking forward to. My freshman year had been a successful running season, a confidence booster as I established myself running the middle distances. I was hoping my success from my freshman year would carry into my sophomore year. I was itching to run the entire week. Instead, my friends and I found ways to have fun on the ice. We skated in our backyards and on the street, played broom hockey. One afternoon, we tied a long rope to a metal disc sled and took turns whipping each other around in circles on the street in front of my house. There was one problem — we swung one guy too close to a car and the rope broke just before the car, shooting him underneath the car. His mother wasn’t too happy with us, especially when she had to take him to the hospital for x-rays on his (broken) arm!
Once the weather broke, the temperatures rewarded us with beautiful days. Power was restored. The ice was replaced by wonderful green.
The storm of 2019 was mild compared to that 1977 ice storm. It was wet, with lots of pretty snow. Of course, I wouldn’t have minded missing a day or two of work….