It is hard to believe, but as I write this week’s Unorganized Territory, Cook County is preparing for yet another storm, which is predicted to bring several inches of snow. I feel quite sorry for people who don’t like winter. They must be at their wit’s end, because even I am getting tired of snow.
I’m not entirely surprised that we are expecting snow in the beautiful month of May. It’s happened before. I vividly recall a winter long, long, ago, when I lived in Grand Marais and was supposed to pack up my car to leave Cook County on May 1, 1982.
It was at the end of a long separation from my soldier husband, Chuck. He had completed a yearlong tour of duty in Korea. Since his assignment was in the lessthan hospitable area of that divided country, our two sons and I spent the year in Minnesota. Chuck had returned to U.S.A. and was waiting for the kids, my sister Rhodelle and me to make the trek cross-country to Fort Ord in Monterey, California to see him.
We were understandably excited. It was hard for our family to be apart for a year. Our youngest son, Gideon was just 6 months old when Chuck left. We wrote and exchanged videotapes and 3-year-old Benjamin and I counted down the days together. We couldn’t wait to load up our belongings in our 1980 AMC Spirit hatchback to head west.
Our impending departure was bittersweet though. As hard as it was for our family to be apart for a year, it was nice for the kids and me to be “home.” I always felt a bit guilty. The separation was harder on Chuck being in a foreign, sometimes-hostile country all alone.
The boys and I lived at my parents’ house—in the basement. My brother Ryan had taken over my former room. But we had a nice cozy space and we enjoyed being with family. It was nice to have my parents to lean on a bit and it was nice for them to get to know their grandsons. It was going to be hard to be so far away from our large and boisterous family once again.
I had also reconnected with some high school girlfriends. Gone were the petty disagreements of teenaged years. We were united in the struggles of being adults, being parents. The night before I was to leave, I had dinner with my two very best girlfriends. We sat and talked for hours and when it was time for me to leave, we clung to each other in a group hug, sobbing at losing what we had. We knew it would never be the same.
When I finally disengaged and cried my way home, I had a hard time sleeping. I almost wished I didn’t have to leave. When the alarm went off the next morning, I awoke with excitement and sadness. And then I looked out the window at the huge snowdrifts against the house. Turning on the TV I learned that the storm was so bad, portions of Highway 61 were covered with impassable snowdrifts. Travel was not recommended.
My trip to California to reunite with Chuck was postponed. It was then I realized that I really did want to make the trip. As much as I loved my dear girlfriends, I missed my soldier and I wanted my family to be together again.
My friends were undaunted by the snow and they shoveled out a vehicle, bundled themselves and their children up, and headed to my house for one more goodbye. I think by that time we had cried ourselves out. This goodbye was not as sad. No, things would never be the same, but we would always be friends. We would always be able to pick up the conversation where we left off, whether it’s been a week, a month, a year, or five years.
The next day the skies had cleared and the Minnesota Department of Transportation had done its job. My sister, my kids and I crowded into that little economy car and headed west—away from the snow!
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Love is a flower that grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow, blooming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive.
Louisa May Alcott
Published – Cook County News-Herald, May 4, 2013