Seventeen years ago, we had a winter like this. I remember it well because I was pregnant with the teenager at the time. I did not have a good pregnancy and to commemorate that fact, I wrote a 25-page essay entitled My Miserable Pregnancy that still makes me shudder when I read it. It was an unprecedentedly grumpy forty weeks for me, and a big part of my malaise was a result of that winter of unrelenting snow.
It was 1994 and if it didn’t snow every Wednesday, it came close. Not just a few flurries or a shimmery coating that makes everything look crisp and clean. That year offered up a substantial snowstorm – at least 8-12 inches – every Tuesday night.
The reason I remember this is because we lived in Hoboken and although I was working from home at the time, I saw my therapist in New York City on Wednesdays around noon. I know it’s hard to believe that someone so well-adjusted would even need to see a therapist on any Wednesday, no less every Wednesday. Yet there I was, pregnant, nauseated, grumpy and mental, pulling on snow boots every Wednesday morning, praying that my slick and slushy walk to the bus stop would not land me on my procreative derriere.
Like Manhattan, Hoboken is a walking town, so neglecting to shovel your sidewalk was beyond irresponsible – it was practically an act of aggression. The streets are narrow. No one has a driveway. When someone shovels out his car after a storm, he's invariably dumping his car snow onto your freshly cleaned sidewalk, and so you must shovel it all over again. It’s a tiny, crowded city and there really isn’t much room for snow. Although that didn’t keep it from coming.
Besides being pregnant that winter, I also had to quit smoking. I am not a cold-turkey kind of a gal, so that was a long, drawn out process that added to my general misery. I systematically broke all my cigarette habits, one by one – all the million ways that I smoked which ultimately added up to the uber-pleasurable experience that constituted smoking. I changed my brand. I stopped having a cigarette with coffee. I made myself smoke only in the basement, hold the cigarette only with my left hand. Once all my happy little rituals were gone it became so unpleasant an experience it seemed more appealing to simply endure nicotine withdrawal than to continue.
Eventually, that winter resulted in my quitting therapy as well. I was so stressed out about getting there every week (in the snow) that I wasn’t even dealing with my childhood misery when I arrived – I would spend my time talking about fresh, snow-related misery – misery that would have been greatly diminished if I’d simply never left the house to begin with.
This winter reminds me of that one. But different in some big, important ways. First, I’m not pregnant – and for that reason alone, we can all be grateful. Next, I don’t have to be anywhere. If the snow is bad enough that school is cancelled, we just hunker down until there’s movement again. I’ve missed some tennis, and I get a little petulant about that, but in time it passes.
Right now there are mountains of snow in the supermarket parking lots, mounds that flank my driveway. I risk life and limb every time I scale one of the snowdrifts to put money in a parking meter, and that’s if I can even find a place on the street to park. There’s another storm predicted for this coming week and even though this town is big and expansive compared to Hoboken, I can’t imagine how another foot of snow is going to fit. How will it ever all melt? How will it ever go away?
But somehow, miraculously, it will. Ninety days from now it will all be gone. Ninety days seems like an eternity when you’re miserable. So that’s why I’m just taking it one day at a time.