I remember some pretty decent snows during my growing up years in Raleigh - usually one or two a winter that would enable good sledding, snowmen (and women), snowcream, and most importantly getting us out of school. There was one that dropped a good foot of the white stuff in the Triangle area of North Carolina and stuck around for nearly a week. Ah, those were the days.
Seven years ago, when our family moved to the foothills in Mount Airy, we figured we were guaranteeing ourselves some serious snows - the Blue Ridge mountains, after all, were right within view and get tons of snow. So we're a shoe-in, right? Not so much. Other than our first winter here, we have been sorely lacking in the snow department. Apparently when the storms come from the north down, as most of them do, the mountains act as a buffer for our little town, shielding us and sending the snow elsewhere. Winston-Salem, just half an hour south, will get pounded; and we'll get nothing. This has happened over and over and over again. For the past five years. Our measuring stick for this snow drought is the fact that our second son, born in 2004, had yet to experience a real snow - and by "real" I mean a snow that's more than a dusting that evaporates mere hours after its arrival. It's been sad, trying to explain to your kids why they can't build a snowman with 1/8 an inch of the white stuff on the ground. It's sad, and it's wrong. No kid should be deprived of at least one winter wonderland in their childhood.
Which is why I am glad to say that, on Friday December 18th at around 2:20pm, they were deprived no longer.
The reports were coming in fast and furious that this was a "major storm" that would "cause significant accumulation" over the weekend. I had heard it all before, many times. I had since taught myself not to get excited or overly optimistic. Despite the fact that all signs pointed to the predictions coming true, despite the fact that the area schools let out at 11am in advance of the storm (usually the kiss of death, as it were), I remained stoic. I would be the "Doubting Thomas" of Mount Airy snowfall - I would not believe until I got to see.
When the snow did come, and when I saw it almost immediately sticking to the streets, I finally allowed myself to believe. So did my boys, which was the most fun of it all. The snow continued to fall late into the afternoon and evening, which was great as usually our snows come and go pretty quick. That would not be the case today. The only bummer about this was the fact that the second Mediocre Bad Guys gig with Rolling Stones sax player Bobby Keys had to be canceled, as the roads were a mess. However, we got a chance to redeem ourselves - more on that later.
Saturday morning came quick, and after a big breakfast the boys and I headed outdoors. By some freak of nature our streets were plowed at 6:30am, which is quite strange given that we live in a pretty secluded area of town. It also messed up a good sledding hill around the corner for us, so we had to go on a hunt. We found a pretty nice place in a friend's yard, and the boys got to hang out with one of their good school friends. It was priceless seeing the looks on their faces as they sledded in our area's first real snowfall in five years; especially our youngest, for whom sledding had always been a concept he could only fathom in his mind. This is the stuff memories are made of - not only for the kids, but for their parents too.
After some time to dry off and defrost we went back out to engage in another wintry tradition - the construction of the family snowman. Again, keep in mind that the last time we did this - the last time we were even able to do this - was 2004. This year's snow was perfect for the cause - slightly damp, packed well. As most snowman construction begins it didn't look too great at first. But we persisted in our efforts, and thanks to a snowman kit the wife got a hold of we were able to complete our masterpiece in a little over an hour. The picture to the left shows our creation - kind of hard to tell, but it was pretty tall, measuring almost even with the height of our boys. Lots of fun.
So - back to that canceled gig the night before. As soon as the band made the call to cancel we begin looking at other options to play with Bobby before he headed back to Nashville. We had such a great time playing with him a year before that we didn't want to miss out on another opportunity. After lots of phone calls, texts and emails, we finally settled on a Saturday night gathering at the band's practice space - in the basement of an off-the-beaten path warehouse in town. Sure, it wouldn't be a full-fledged show like it would've been the night before, and one of our guitarists wouldn't be able to make the trek from Winston-Salem to join us. But it would still be a lot of fun. We invited a handful of our local friends to come hang out and around 30 folks turned up. We didn't have a set list - we just called songs out as they came to us, pretty much the same songs we would've played anyway. And while the big show would've been a blast, there was something kinda cool about the intimate feel of Plan B; just us hanging out with a pretty famous and talented dude playing some tunes and enjoying each others company.
Highlight of the evening - presenting Bobby with his birthday present: a framed poster of the original gig flyer with all our signatures, followed by playing the Beatles' "Birthday." The plan was to give him the poster and play the tune on his actual birthday, which was the previous night, at the original gig. But he still seemed genuinely touched by the gesture and joined us for some nice sax playing on a song in which you'd never thing sax would fit. Which, of course, it did. All of which goes to show that sometimes the Plan Bs can actually work out as good or even better than the original.
It's Sunday morning now and we had to cancel church because the parking lot hasn't been scraped. Temperatures are heading upwards and the snow is starting to melt. No one enjoys playing in slush. It's always kind a bummer when the crystalline water ice transitions to liquid form. But we've got pictures and memories that'll stick with us for a while. Five years wait is long enough for a good snow and all the fun it brings. Here's hoping we don't have to wait that long again.