December 26, 2013

WILLIAMS: Coming home to winter


---- — Home from Florida dodging ice storms and snow storms. When I left the Keys, it was in the 80s. Flowers were blooming, pelicans were diving, boats were bobbing with their masts decorated with Christmas lights. The temperatures dropped as we passed from state to state. The first morning I woke up in Indiana, the thermometer read minus 1 degree. Now the snowflakes are falling, falling.

I always enjoyed winter until I took a job that required a lot of traveling, then I watched the weather anxiously to see if I would have to navigate treacherously icy roads to Rochester. This part of Indiana is as fickle as a Kardashian. Kokomo-bound, from Wabash to Swayzee, can be bright and clear but cross the invisible weather line and you’re driving into a blizzard. Some highways are more prone to blowing and drifting than others. Even after the snow is long over, giant snowblowers appear to be trying to push all the snow from the fields onto Ind. 15 and Ind. 13.

It is always surprising to discover the difference among counties and cities when it comes to snow removal. Some, like my own, are Johnny on the Spot. I hear the scrape and clunk of the plows going past the house in the middle of the night.

Other places appear to have a much more nonchalant attitude. They tend to trust to God, weather and traffic to do the job — eventually. Even their main drags are tamped down sheets of ice. When I worked in the mayor’s office, our spoiled citizens complained mightily if they thought their little two-house dead-end street didn’t get cleared quickly enough. Do other areas have their residents trained to be more accepting?

In 2011, I retired and I began to like winter again because I didn’t have to go anywhere. I could look out the window to see the snow swirling around the street lights, covering the earth with a blanket of white. If the Weatherbug on the computer said it was zero outside, it didn’t matter. Even if I did have to go out in it to run to the store, the house was cozy and welcoming when I got back.

On the television news, I listen to the reports and watch the videos of backed-up highways and jackknifed semi-trucks and vehicles in ditches and toast my own fortunate circumstances with a cup of hot coffee. It’s not that you gloat over the hardships of others so much as acknowledge your gratitude not to be part of them.

I can hardly remember Florida and the warm temperatures and blooming bougainvillea and screaming seagulls of a few days ago. Instead of gleaming turquoise, the sea that laps around the Indiana winter house is white.

My man who shovels appears like clockwork. I don’t know much about him. He’s a sad man, a very hard worker. I assume he is an addict of some kind. He disappears sometimes and again, I make assumptions that he is in jail. I overpay him as I always do. Sometimes, I let him shovel even though I could easily get out of the drive because I know he needs the money. I have given him food and socks and coat once. My son disapproves. He thinks I’m too trusting.

“Don’t let him in the house. Keep your gun handy. Keep your doors locked.”

I’m not totally naive but, on the other hand, I refuse to live my life as if everyone is out to get me.

“What if it was you, John?” I ask. “How would I want someone to treat you?”

He thinks it could never be him but I know it could be any of us if fate deals us the wrong cards.

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