I was five when my parents moved from Huntsville Alabama where my father worked for Boeing on the Saturn Five to Des Moines Washington where he began work on the original 747 airplanes. The year was 1968 and anyone old enough to remember winter of 68/69 knows my first snow was a big one.
About ten years or so ago when I still lived in the Seattle area we had a particularly snowy winter and I laughed when they compared it to the winter of 68/69. It set records.
As a five year old, I loved it. I had snow boots. I got to build snowmen. I got to go sledding with my friends. For those who don’t know this part of Washington, just south of Seattle, overlooking Puget Sound, there were plenty of hills and kids made use of all of them. Parents did too. One dad went down one hill and then down an alley and crossed what was normally a busy street (no one drives in Washington in the snow) and crashed into the Richfield station, which was a local gas station.
Early school mornings were spent listening to the radio to hear if I had school, if it were going to be late, or if everything was on schedule. We had to listen through all the schools. I remembered several of them got to miss way more school than I did. I was always jealous, not so much of the missing school part, but because they clearly had more snow than I did.
My parents were from Wisconsin. They were used to snow. Everyone had said it didn’t snow in Washington and with each new storm dropping another few inches to a foot, one dropping so much Boeing even closed down and my father, probably one of a handful of drivers out, turned around came home in a our 1963 Oldsmobile Starfire, chained up with bags of concrete weighting down the rear end. Everyone on our street knew Boeing must be closed if even my dad came home. They were pretty amazed at what he’d drive in.
My mom hated it. My dad was wondering what he’d gotten himself into. He’d liked the heat in Alabama. He’d hoped to live in California one day (he would get there). The neighbors all said it was very unusual. The three years we lived in Washington we got snow every winter. And that first year was a record setter and I swear my parents never quite believed that even when I went back to college there and there was only one year while I lived there that we had more than a few inches of snow.
I just remember loving it, even after the snow turned brown and ugly. New snow always covered it over. I liked the way it looked falling and the way the world got quiet as it fell. I still love snow and I wish more winters were like the one that year. Yes, even now that I have to drive. I’m like my dad. I know my cars and I know how to drive them in the snow, although much to my embarrassment, the ice and snow last year here in Kentucky had my car stuck about halfway up our nearly flat driveway. There’s only so much you can do when you hit ice and our driveway had a nice thick sheet of it.