When I came home from playing golf Monday my lovely wife, Lisa, was cleaning out the fireplace. I mean, like a final end-of-winter-hauling-away-all-the-ashes cleaning. It seems that she pays more attention to the calendar than the thermometer.
And yes, I know I am leaving myself wide open by noting that while I was out playing she was home working, but when you are as bad at golf as I am, play can be hard work. But that’s another story for another day.
I knew it wouldn’t do me any good to point out to my wife that America’s Weatherman, David Chandley, is calling for a cold rain Friday night with highs in the 50s over the weekend and a low of 37 Saturday night. No good whatsoever. So I didn’t comment.
I’ll just wait until Thursday afternoon, bring more wood up on the porch, build a fire and listen to her fuss at me. “We aren’t going to have a fire! I already cleaned out the fireplace for the season!”
“Well,” I will say. “You rushed the season and we are having a fire, because it’s cold,” which will precipitate a big fight, but I won’t care because she already gave up sex for Lent and I do most of the cooking anyway. And while she’s fighting, I’ll be building a fire in the freshly cleaned-out fireplace.
And when I get the fire built and settle down to watch a little basketball, Lisa will sit on the hearth to warm herself, completely blocking the heat from the fire from my seat on the couch. But that’s OK. What’s that old Merle Haggard song? “That’s the way love goes.”
Now I told you all of that to tell you this. If you are reading this column on Wednesday — the day of intended publication — it is March 13. And on March 13, in 1993, the Storm of the Century — that would be the previous century, I suppose — hit Atlanta and the North Georgia Piedmont. I bet y’all remember. It snowed nearly 3 feet in some parts of the state.
It was on a Saturday, you recall. Unlike many storms, it didn’t catch us by surprise. Prognosticators had been calling for snow just about all week. But it had been nearly 80 degrees on my birthday, March 10. So, yeah, we were thinking maybe a few flurries. I don’t think anybody was prepared for the amount of snow that would fall — or the wind or bone-chilling temperatures that would accompany the “blizzard.”
I know I wasn’t. My son Jackson was about to turn 4, having been born on the Ides of March. We were celebrating the occasion by allowing him to have his very first spend-the-night party and had invited three of his friends to “camp out” in our living room. Four 4-year-olds for about 12 hours. We could handle that. Besides, we had Jackson’s 7-year old sister, Jamie Leigh, who was born grown, to help out. Then there was Jenna, who was less than a year-old, so she wasn’t any trouble — yet.
Piece of cake. I could handle it.
We entertained the kids with Disney movies and Uncle Remus stories and cooked hot dogs and made s’mores over the open fire in the living room — the fireplace had not been closed down for the season in 1993 — and I slept on the couch — where I will probably sleep for the next couple of days, once Lisa is made aware of this column — and kept one eye on the window, waiting for the snow that I wasn’t really confident would come.
It came. Early in the morning, wind whipping around and howling like a banshee, the snow came — and came, and came and came.
You know what didn’t come? Vehicles down our driveway with parents picking up their kids. We were snowed in for three days with all those 4-year-olds. And Jamie Leigh. And Jenna.
I remember two things about that chaotic weekend very clearly. I remember that when we went out to feed the cows Saturday morning and again Saturday afternoon — cows eat well during Southern snow storms — I thought my eyes were going to freeze shut and that my hands would fall off before we got back to the barn.
The other thing I remember concerns Jesus’s mama, of all people.
1993 was back in the day, when Nancy Fowler was attracting thousands and thousands of people to Rockdale County on the 13th of each month by claiming to receive a vision from the Virgin Mary. Whether she did or didn’t, I can’t say, but I know that you couldn’t get a table at Shoney’s or any other restaurant on or about the 13th of the month, and you wouldn’t even think about trying to drive to Walnut Grove on Ga. Highway 138. The crowds multiplied exponentially if the 13th fell on a weekend.
On the Saturday of the blizzard, Karen Minton, who recently retired after 33 years at WSB, was doing the weather and had to read a list of storm-related closings. Somehow, with a straight face, she read that the “Virgin Mary Apparition in Conyers is cancelled due to weather.”
Bless her heart.
Don’t clean out those fireplaces, yet, y’all. Winter isn’t quite done with us.
Darrell Huckaby is an author in Rockdale County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.