I do not know how accurate the facts in this story are, this is simply how I remember it 19 years later (March, 1998).
I was born on June 8, 1969, a mere month and a half before man first landed on the moon. The first nine years of my life on this tiny but powerful planet were fairly typical, a six month stay in Salem, NH followed by life in a little house in Everette, MA, a mile or so from Boston. That little neighborhood was my world; it was all I really knew. Then halfway through my ninth year, that started to change. It was the start of 1978, one of the most memorable years of my childhood; two years after our country celebrated its 200th birthday. That was the year Mother Nature decided to allow the sky to fall…twice.
One day early that year I was getting ready to leave school. Since he was in kindergarten my brother had left halfway through the day and I did not have to think about walking him home. Knowing it was cold and blustery outside I bundled up in my warmest coat, pulled my homemade knit hat firmly onto my head, wrapped my homemade knit scarf a million times around my neck, and pulled on those thick mittens that render your hands useless; only my eyes were exposed to the air. As I opened the door I knew today was going to be different. I could not see more than a few feet away. The air was so full of huge, white snowflakes I felt I had gone blind. I let out a scream for joy and started running home.
That night the snow continued to fall. It seemed the sky itself was falling. When I woke in the morning, I ran downstairs but could not see through the windows. After bundling up even warmer than the day before, I tried to open the door but it didn’t budge. My father opened one of the first floor windows–snow tumbling in–and hopped out with a shovel. Eventually he cleared the snow from the porch and opened the door. I rushed out to find 3 1/2 feet of pristine snow in the driveway and drifts way over my head against the house. We were going to be staying home for the day, or as it turned out, the whole week.
During the day, my father and I built a network of tunnels in the driveway. For two more days it was great. But, Mother Nature wasn’t through. Three days after the first blizzard, she dropped the sky again. This time my father had to jump from the second story window to get out and clear off the porch. Now there was 6 1/2 feet of snow in the driveway and drifts against the house reaching up to the second story windows! We built another set of tunnels in the driveway and eventually connected with the original set. I now had a massive two story cave system to play in. My father cut a small round hole in the roof of the largest room, we built a campfire on the floor and roasted marshmallows. I thought the heat would cave in the walls, but the cold air kept them frozen.
Then, the momentous event happened. The snow in the air and on the ground excited me. Walking to school on drifts taller than the city buses thrilled me. However, it was not the snow that changed my life. Before the snow cleared, there was another storm. This nor’easter did not drop feet of snow, only a few inches. It did not even close down school. However, as is any nor’easter, it was violent. The wind howled in and threw everything around. During the storm, my mother decided to show me the true power of Mother Nature. She took me to a small wildlife preserve known as Plum Island in northeastern Massachusetts. It was quite an adventure getting from the car to the beach. Normally there is a raised boardwalk over the sand–I had walked that trail many times–but now everything was white and covered in mountains of snow. As we plowed through the snowdrifts, we could feel and hear tremendous booms so loud and low they grabbed our hearts and stomachs and shook them; each thunderous, rolling bang lasting ages. I was sure the world itself was being rent asunder, nothing else could possibly make those earth shattering complaints, not even thunder was that fierce. Through it all we pressed on, digging our way through the white mountains, forcing ourselves forward against the hellish noise.
Near the beach we found the cause of those powerful retorts. The ocean itself had frozen. The tide was retreating, but the ice could not. Slabs of ice a mile long and four, five, six feet thick and more were suddenly finding themselves with nothing but air below them. Those horrible, ear shattering, painful noises and quakes were the sounds and tremors caused by breaking ice!
Between the sounds of the ice I discovered an even more interesting sound. The fury of the sea. Far off shore, the water was not frozen. There the wind was whipping it into awesome waves towering far into the sky. These massive hands of the sea were raising continents of ice, smashing them against each other and then continuing on below. As the waves thundered toward shore they were breaking on, in, and under the ice. It was a spectacle of pure power. The ocean was devouring and spitting out sheets and burgs of ice the size of whole neighborhoods. Nothing could prepare you for that sight. It takes you–grabs you–and reduces you to smaller than a hair on the back of a flea on the back of an elephant. Suddenly you view something with such size, power, and majesty that it dwarfs anything you had ever imagined. Mother Nature slaps you in the face and tells you that you are trivial. Often Mother Nature speaks in a soft, quiet voice but this time her voice was so loud the very core of my being resonated to her words. This planet no longer seemed so small and quiet.
Another even more momentous event in my life occurred later that year, shortly after my birthday in June, but that’s another story to be told another time…