The snow was a reminder of where I came from

The snow was a reminder of where I came from

If you spent any time driving in a Northeast Ohio snowstorm, chances are you’ll recognize this lyric:

“Thank God for the man who put the white lines on the highway.”

It’s from a 1980 song called “Lover,” recorded by the Michael Stanley Band, and remains one of the most evocative lines ever written, right up there with anything penned by the greats.

Were there anything approaching justice in this world, “Lover” would have propelled MSB into the stratosphere of popular music, but that didn’t happen. So much of success depends on timing and luck, and theirs just wasn’t good enough.

In my little town, however, “Lover” stayed on jukeboxes year after year, winter after winter, and anytime I hear it, I’m back home, sitting with my friends, sharing stories and talking about girls or sports or whether or not the snow would ever stop.

Then someone would play it again, and those 13 words would ring truer than we could ever explain to someone who hadn’t grown up trying to keep a car between the lines in a blizzard.

Speaking of the white stuff, Coastal Carolina experienced a bit of it the other morning, and it was exhilarating, a predawn reminder of better days in the bitter cold, miles and miles from home.

It started around 4 a.m. and looked more than anything else like white rain, mini shooting stars falling from the sky tracing quiet lines before hitting the ground, where they vanished: poof, melted, gone.

But then as the mercury dropped, they began to survive the fall, and soon trees and power lines, along with the earth, whitened.

Walking in the snow — even a southern facsimile of the real thing — is a rare treat, and my first thought was to call my wife, alerting her to the magic in the air.

Since her retirement last summer, she’s dreamed of a morning like that and an inner voice that says, “Don’t worry. You don’t have to go to work. Just stay warm and cozy.”

But I refrained, content in the knowledge I’d see her soon enough and she could experience it for herself.

So my mind wandered back in time, and I remembered driving my 1969 Chevy Impala all around Northeast Ohio, trying to get to various high schools to cover basketball games. It was my first job out of college, and I took it seriously, wanting to make a good impression.

A lot of the schools were on secondary — even tertiary — roads, and snow plows had yet to be dispatched, so I had to be careful, not wanting to end up in a ditch. Of course, having grown up driving in the snow, I knew what I was doing.

Add in four years spent in South Bend, where winter lasts from Halloween to Easter, and I was as prepared as I could be.

Speaking of Notre Dame, no college campus can rival its beauty in a snowstorm.

It is a thing to behold, the Golden Dome shining with an otherworldly luster as nighttime crept in slowly, sounds muffled as if encased in cotton, students walking to or from the library — with Touchdown Jesus on its façade — in utter silence, just taking it in.

And it wasn’t just studying that took place in those interludes. Snowball fights were common, and once the lake froze, look out.

ND is home to two lakes.

St. Joseph’s never freezes because, well, they pump a lot of hot stuff into it, all of it eco-friendly — I suppose — and it’s a long way from the so-called God Quad that I hardly ever got that far on my forays. The only time I made a point to hike out to St. Joe’s was during my freshman year when a high school classmate, who was part of her college’s crew team, competed there.

She and I talked for a while, just catching up, and I remember thinking how cool that all was, getting together 250 miles from home, and just a few months before, we walked the same halls.

On the other side of campus was St. Mary’s Lake, by far the more picturesque setting, what with its location bounded by the Grotto on one side and the seminary on the far reaches of the other.

It most definitely did freeze.

St. Mary’s is known for its duck population, and in a rather noble nod to “Catcher in the Rye,” students took it upon themselves to make sure they didn’t go hungry during the winter.

Another unofficial tradition, this one less literary and way more lunatic, involved trying to walk across the lake once it had presumably frozen. This had to happen at night, of course, because that’s when most of the fun at ND occurred.

The obvious problem was that until someone had actually traversed the entire breadth of the lake, you couldn’t really be sure that it was possible.

It was rather like European sailors setting off for the Orient back when a lot of folks thought the Earth was flat.

Not that we risked anything approaching falling off into space, but campus lore was replete with tales of midnight rescues and sodden slogs to the infirmary.

But I wasn’t much into the daredevil aspects of a snowstorm, much preferring the solitude of a walk in the wee hours, my sneakers crunching through the crust of the ice-covered pavement and my thoughts going where they might.

Such was the case the other night when the snow began falling when hardly anyone else in this gated community was awake to enjoy it. Again, it wasn’t anything that amounted to much, and by 10 a.m., all traces would be erased, but as a reminder of where I come from, it was a blessing.

It’s one thing to be able to get to that parenthesis of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks anytime we want to, and that’s beyond great, but it’s quite another to simply reflect on how a few snowflakes settling on your shoulder can make you feel a lot better.

Technically March is considered a winter month until the vernal equinox, but to me it’s the start of spring, which also includes April and May. Then it’s June, July and August — summer — followed by September, October and November, which is fall.

But whoever configured our modern calendar — the ancient Romans or the folks who constructed Stonehenge — missed it by a month, and so we have that weird overlap, meaning that December is mostly autumnal.

Wait a minute. How did we get from the Michael Stanley Band to the Druids?

I don’t know, but I blame it on the snow.

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