February 27, 2014

WILLIAMS: Talking about the weather


---- — My mother lived with me for almost 30 years and every week, I’d ask if she had any ideas for my column. For 30 years, she had the same answer — the weather.

“Mom,” I’d say, “I don’t write a meteorology column. I can’t write about the weather every week.”

This winter though, it has been hard not to write about the weather every week. Several days of above freezing temperatures now and I still see total white when I look out my window. My tree lawn is still a solid wall from the snow the Street Department (bless them!) has piled up there. My driveway is still pure ice. My furnace runs 24 hours a day.

In fact, I’ve fallen twice. That’s unusual. I’m not a particularly graceful person but I am usually balanced. I don’t fall often but these two times, my feet shot out from under me and I fell on my rear and rocketed down the drive. Fortunately, I’m well-padded in that area so no actual harm was done except to my dignity. The first time, I had just arrived at home so I went inside to put on warm, dry pajamas and comforted myself with a cup of hot chocolate. The second time, I was headed out but had to return to the house to change out of my ice-water-sodden clothes.

This is the first year I’ve ever heard of the polar vortex. I Googled the term to discover it has been in use for years (despite Rush Limbaugh’s claim that is a “hoax”). I guess it just didn’t register before. But polar vortex sounds much more ominous than “bad storm,” doesn’t it? I looked up the definition but it is long and complex and unless you are a scientist, you wouldn’t know anymore after you read it than you do now (except that is also a form of cyclone).

One thing I’ve noticed since I’m home all day and dip in and out of what’s happening on the TV is that when we here in the Midwest have terrible weather, the television channels cover it but in a rather casual way, usually focusing on how many flights have been cancelled at O’Hare...or maybe if there’s a 40-car pile-up on one of the interstates. But when the East Coast is experiencing bad storms, OH MY GOD, they will spend hours of coverage detailing every bit of inconvenience and discomfort Easterners are going through! Most often, they limit themselves to the Washington/New York/Boston corridor. This year, of course, there was additional coverage of the mega-traffic jams in Atlanta and Birmingham.

I wonder if I’m turning into one of those elderly curmudgeons who love to tell how rough life was when they were young but it seems to me that schools close for any little whipstitch nowadays. I don’t ever remember schools closing when I was a kid and most of us walked back then.

I remember one particularly wicked snowstorm when the high school announced, “we will be open and everyone who can get there should come. We’ll have classes with how ever many students and teachers show up.”

Their theory then seemed to be – “if it’s cold, bundle up” – “if the snow is deep, wear your boots.” Duh.

My son’s birthday is March 2 and over the years, we have experienced every possible kind of weather on that date. Some years, the kids played outside in shorts and T-shirts. Other years, they attacked each other with snowballs but even so, you knew that winter was on its way out by then. Sometime during the month, you’d smell the musky fragrance of thaw and grass would turn green and the sun would shine warmly. I think I’ll celebrate John’s birthday more than ever this year.

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at