FLORENCE GILKESON: Yes, Yankees, This Is What We Call Snow
It wasn't much, but it certainly was snow. Newcomers to North Carolina may find snow in March to be a mite odd. To those of us who have lived here all our lives, nothing surprises us when it comes to the weather.
I can even remember snow falling in April one year. But that is a memory best left alone.
At least twice in the years my clergy husband was living, weddings took place on the first Saturday or Sunday in March, and it snowed. It was the first and only marriage for one young couple. Not only did it snow on their wedding day, but it also iced over, which is the most likely weather phenomenon in eastern North Carolina.
This is a particularly deadly set of circumstances -- all that pretty, fluffy snow sitting so neatly atop that treacherous ice. Men from our church went to the building a few hours in advance of the ceremony and shoveled ice and snow and spread salt. The wedding went on as planned.
The other snowy marriage occurred on March 1. I don't remember much ice that time, but the snow had really piled up. This time it was a second marriage for both husband and wife. Each had lost a spouse to death. Both were members of our church and had known each other for years as neighbors and friends. It was a marriage that really warmed everyone's heart.
However, the heart was about all that was warm that day. Snow was several inches deep -- not much for New England or Chicago, perhaps, but a heap for eastern North Carolina.
One sidelight of that wedding was special to me. A neighbor of the bridal couple and a personal friend of mine had her heart set on attending the nuptials. Unfortunately, Miss Pearl suffered very poor health and had difficulty walking even when the weather was good. Sure enough, Job's comforters were there to warn her not to venture from the house that day, although the church house was less than half a block from her front door.
With help from her sister, I remember helping Miss Pearl down her front steps to the car. At the church, a couple of strong men picked her up and made sure she was well seated before the music began. Miss Pearl died several years later. That marriage turned out to be a good one, lasting until the death of the wife. Her husband died a few years later.
I'm not telling you this just to scare anyone away from a March wedding. Don't forget that both of these marriages turned out quite well. It's just that a few obstacles went their way before they even made it down the aisle.
As for you snowbirds, keep in mind that this has been an unusual winter. It's rarely this cold as continuously as it has been this winter, and we don't usually have this many snows. It does snow here, sometimes much deeper than we've seen this year. We oldtimers could tell you some real horror stories, but we don't want to scare you away.
Please think twice before you call us a bunch of wimps because we close schools, factories and courthouses when it snows. Our snows tend to be accompanied by, preceded by and followed up by sleet or rain, with temperatures dropping precipitously afterward. It makes a deadly combination on the road and on sidewalks. (I can attest to that, for I hit icy concrete with a massive thud in the February "snow" this year.) And, it does not snow often enough here to make it financially practical for municipalities to stock up on snow-fighting equipment.
A former co-worker hailed from Idaho. Becky made it clear that we are a bunch of sissies when we close schools after snow does little more than coat the ground. North Carolinians don't know how to drive, she said. Then one day it snowed, and she called in with an apologetic and probably red-faced explanation for her lateness: Her vehicle was stalled in a snowy ditchbank, where she had slid from an icy road in the country. That was the end of Becky's good-natured teasing of sissified Tar Heel drivers.
Snow lost its charm after I reached middle age. Sure, it's a pretty sight, but it makes it difficult to get to work. So often, what we get is ice instead of snow, and when it does snow, ice is usually just around the corner. This can mean power outages lasting for days. Maybe we shouldn't complain, because in some parts of the country, ice and snowstorms can mean outages lasting weeks.
If you're thinking about getting married in March next year, perhaps April would be a wiser choice. Better still, to be on the safe side, your best bet might be some time between May and September. I can't recall any October snows, but then, you never know.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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