Written by: Keith Helinski
To Michelle Helinski, the best sister a brother could ever have. Love ya!
…and there it was, the 'storm of the century.' The one everyone talked about as 'Snowpocalypse.' I was just a little tyke when it happened. But I remember it well enough. The one everyone proclaimed, 'the end of the world, as we know it.' Everyone freaked out days prior to the 'storm.' It was as if - BOOM – a zombie invasion just exploded or 2012 came a year early. But as it was, February 2nd, 2011 – when Mother Nature decided to give Michigan a surprise of epic proportion. And boy was everyone surprised. But I can't talk about that day without mentioning the events leading up to that day.
It was all over the news.
2 FEET OF SNOW.
COMING TO A GROUND NEAR YOU!
Rated T.C. for…
Everyone at school was talking about it - the sheer excitement of SNOW. In those days, I loved the snow. Making angels. Snow fights. Building a snowman (or fort). That is, of course, until I learned how to drive. Scraping the snow/ice off the car. In the cold. De-frosting the car. In the cold. Driving in a cold car. From one extreme to another, I went from loving snow to hating snow as I progressed in life!
But in those days, I LOVED the snow. And I couldn't wait for it. All that powder-substance to play with. As if Mother Nature decided to dump her cold dandruff for our own enjoyment! As my sister and I got out of school, we ran immediately to the house. We both took the same bus together. The neighborhood is like any other neighborhood in the 'burbs. And our house was nothing extraordinary. Yellow sidings, red bricks - next to two colonial houses built in the 1970s. Wasn't much, but it was home. All my childhood memories reside at that house.
My sister and I got to the door, opened it with much excitement, and pestered mom into going grocery shopping for the kick-butt snow day. She insisted there wouldn't be one. Schools usually don't determine school closings until early in the morning. She even turned on the local news to prove us wrong. To her own horror, school closings were already listed on TV. As luck had a role in our own desired destiny, our school was part of that list. I jumped up and down with so much excitement! My sister followed suit, just to mimic me. She was in that stage of her young life where mimicking every possible movement I made would benefit her in some way.
"Fine," my mom said with an aggravated tone. "You guys got no school tomorrow. But I am still not going to the store."
"Please, please, please, please," I pleaded. My sister repeated every please I said, but with louder decibels.
"NO! We have food. Cupboards. Pantry. Fridge. Find it, eat it!" mom said with annoyance and anger.
Needless to say, this was a disappointment. Sure, there was food in the house. In fact, if a zombie invasion did come to pass, or if the end of the world does occur at some point – we are surly covered if we needed to take cover. BUT! This was a snow day. This had its own level of urgency. We needed SNOW DAY food. Or, to be more appropriate, 'Snowpocalypse' grub! No matter, we waited till dad come home from work. If we knew anything in our short little lives, dad was always the one to go to when mommy-dearest says N, O! And like clockwork as he came home and as we pestered him, he said in exact words, "that's a great idea!"
"Now, we have food. Don't tell me we don't have any food", mom shouted in the other room.
"That might be, but we don't have snow day food!" dad said in defense.
"Snow day food?" mom asked.
"Yeah. I am going to take the day off tomorrow. Spend some quality time with my family!" dad answered.
And just like that, we were off to the local grocery store. Mom pointed out how busy it would be. "Nonsense," dad says. "It's not like the end of the world or anything."
But to his surprise and mom's prediction, the parking lot was packed to the max. We parked to what seemed like God's country, and walked great lengths to what appeared to be a full-fledged zoo. Everyone in the store was completely out of his or her mind. "It's like Y2K all over again!" dad said.
We got our cart, and fought through the clutter of bodies', aisle-after-aisle. It was decided we should have Chili (a very appropriate snow day meal). Sis and I even got some candy out of the deal (only had to do some ear piercing whining first, works every time!). We got in line, and waited for what seemed like an hour (of course five minutes in a long line does seem longer in the scheme of things). People in front of us had shovels, salt, generators, a cart full of 'emergency food' (water/bread/milk/alcohol), and even that urgent pack of gum. It was insane! Even at a young age, I grasped how crazy people were acting. It really did have that feel of the day before the end of the world.
As we left the store, the snow started to fall. People were running to and from their cars as if it was acid rain! I stuck my tongue out to catch the snowflakes in my mouth. Like clockwork, my sister followed suit. The snow was starting to accumulate on the ground. We got to the house. And would you believe it, it was close to bedtime! My excitement couldn't contain itself. I stared at the window, watching the snowflakes fall from the sky onto the ground. What little grass was left turned into white pavement. The white pavement got higher and higher from the ground, creating a winter wonderland landscape. All I can think about is playing in that magical white cold substance; rolling my entire body in the majestic white crystals. Taking a handful of it at a time to make a snow-fort that will become my own fortress of solitude. Throwing endless snowballs at any enemy that steps inches toward my fort. I will create a bodyguard snowman in front of the fort, so no unsuspecting and unwanted guests intrude. The distant sounds of shoveling and snow blowing will be my soundtrack for the day. Hehe…the entire backyard was my oyster. And I was going to seize every minute of it. That's what I dreamt about that night!
What everyone predicted Snowpocalpyse was going to be like, and what ended up being were two completely different scenarios. Not even the weatherman predicted what ultimately came to be. It ended up being a very unusual day, and was placed in the record books.
I woke up to birds chirping. The sunlight from the outside window was completely blinding in every which-way. In fact, the sunlight rays interrupted my snow-covered-dream. I looked outside, and was bare witness to the very definition of a what-the-fuck moment; my mouth was wide in length. I even gasped for dear life. I almost thought I was still dreaming. I had to pinch myself, slap my face, and instantly close/reopen my eyes just to make sure what I was seeing was real enough. The predictions/forecast/assumptions and my entire planned-out snow day, dream, didn't match up to the display outside.
Instead of 2 feet of snow delivered by Mother Nature herself, I saw what appeared to be a May sunny sky-like morning. Sun in the middle of nothing but blue sky and not a single cloud in sight. The calmness was at a standstill. All the snow dissolved into water for the grass. Any appearance of Michigan winter evaporated in thin air overnight. In its stead was a Michigan spring day, awaiting its guests to entertain everything it had.
The heat from the sun blasted through my window screen. I slide the glass window open and breathed in-and-out the fresh spring air. There's just something about the early spring air that is pleasurably intoxicating. The air was mild and warm. The next thing I saw was even more of a shocker. Instead of my sister and I running around in the magical snow that was promised to us - my parents appeared to be playing tag outside. They were running around, laughing, smiling, and kissing each other. YUCK!
I got dressed and went outside to join my parent's madness. The warm sun hit my skin, and my allergies immediately hit me like a semi-truck crashing without warning. But I didn't mind it. It was a treat to see my parents in a good mood. It has been quite a while. And it was good going outside and not having to wear gazillion layers of clothes.
We went back inside and watched the news. The weatherman coughed on-air and apologized for the drastic change of weather. Brief video shots of other states that received the care-package of snow were mixed in with sound-bites of various reasons why what we were supposed to get differed to what was currently outside. The weatherman couldn't even explain it. But anyone that lives in Michigan long enough knows how random and how unpredictable weather can be. It can be spring/fall/and/winter in a single 24-hour day, and not be explained why or how. And that's exactly what happened. Coincidentally, it was Groundhog Day, and the predictions called for an early spring. No one expected it this early. This was, as they say, record breaking. The highest February 2nd saw in its history in the great city we lived in was 65 degrees, and that was in 1984. Well, ladies and gents alike – 2011 saw 76 degrees. And I was one of the lucky ones to have experienced it.
Instead of rolling in the snow, I ended up rollerblading. Instead of making a snow-fort, I rode my bike. Instead of throwing snowballs, I threw the good ol' Frisbee back and forth with dad. It was a day to remember. Mom's annoyance wasn't detected at all. She was out in the sun, reading her current People magazine. My sister was riding her Big Wheel around the front driveway. All the neighbors were out experiencing the same 'snow day' I was. Instead of the sounds of shoveling and snow blowing with the occasional colorful adjectives I wasn't allowed to repeat or I get that nasty Zest bar soap the my mouth, I heard the noise of basketballs slamming down on pavement. I heard the echoing sound of rotating wheels on bikes. I heard the sound of laughter. Girls next door were in their bathing suits, soaking the hot sun. I wasn't at that age yet to appreciate such sights! In those days, cooties were still highly contagious!
The day went by quick. Too quick, actually. It was decided that it wasn't a Chili-like-day for dinner. Instead, dad went to the store and grabbed some burgers to put on the grill. The smell of grills was shared backyard-to-backyard like an outbreak. We finished the day by relaxing to the sunset. We had a bonfire in the backyard, instead of a fire in the fireplace indoors. We melted marshmallows on a long stick fork, instead of having melted marshmallows in a cup of hot chocolate.
I went to bed not anticipating a snow day, but the reality of school the next day. But it wouldn't be right to note how kick-butt the day was. Major highlight of my childhood. Even had some pictures taken that day and is in one of the dozens of unfinished photo albums stored in the wall unit.
That day was like a preview of what to look forward to in the summer. The freedom summer brings, compared to the constraints of what winter brings. I am not sure why the weather changed so rapidly. That one single 'Snowpocalypse' was a one-trick-pony. The next day, it snowed. Not the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it two footer. But any signs of early spring disappeared.
Days and weeks went by, and there were a few snow days – nothing like what February 2nd would have been like. Years went by, and there were some memorable 'Snowpocalypse'-like days. I have kids of my own, whom experienced their own magic of snow days. And like myself growing up, the magic dissolves from an opportunity to play in the snow all day to just sleep-in all day! But unfortunately for them, there was never a day like February 2nd, 2011 – a 'snow day' not to be reckon with. The 'Snowpocalypse' I barely survived!
K.H.; February 11-12, 2011.