Finally the thermometer rose into the 20s. It seemed like a veritable heat wave. It had been a long time since it was that cold for that many days. Since I am retired I do not need to leave home if the weather is bad. I called off one volunteer duty because I did not feel well. If you are sick they say it is better to stay at home so as not to spread whatever you have.
I have mentioned before that I keep a diary and have for a long time. I remembered a time during the 1970s when it was very cold for a long time, so I dug out my diary and looked it up. It took a little bit of doing, but I found what I was looking for.
It was the winter of 1975. We not only had extremely cold weather, we also had a fuel shortage. School was canceled for days at a time to save fuel. I had forgotten that happened at the same time as the cold snap.
That year we spent many nights downstairs by the fireplace just to keep warm. I remember that my husband hurried home after chores so we could watch the television series called "Roots" by Alex Haley. It was truly an educational experience for all of us.
At the time we had a Franklin fireplace in our kitchen. My husband never understood why I did not like that stove until he had to keep it running all night. What I disliked the most was the fact that if I left the room the stove died down. It was hard to keep going without constant attention. We did eat an awful lot of hot dogs and popcorn while we burned that stove.
When Dick came home from the barn we opened up the doors and roasted hot dogs on sticks just like you would at a campfire. We warmed the buns on the top of the stove. We also had a campfire popcorn maker that we used. That was never as satisfactory as the hot dog sticks and little pie makers. Most of the time the popcorn burned so it did not taste great. I assured my husband I could make it on the regular stove a lot better. That Christmas I got an air popper so we were all set. That air popper has been wonderful. Now the grandchildren use it to fix themselves a snack. The only thing that did not work was the "automatic" buttering device. It was supposed to melt the butter, but it didn't.
We were not the only family who took advantage of a fireplace. When everyone got out and about again we found out our friends slept downstairs, too. They had a real fireplace that opened into their dining room and living room. Since they did not have television at the time they were not watching "Roots."
Diaries are good for documenting the weather. I kept track of the temperature as well as the snow. You better believe that I noted the extreme temperatures we had this January. Now that I stop to think about it I remember the temperature often dipping below zero in those days, and we did not think much about it.
This year, there were no below-zero temperatures at Hickory Heights during the cold snap. Being up on the hill has its advantages. It was cooler in the valley.
Let me also note that New York City has had its fair share of snow already this season. When they get a significant snowfall, there is no room to put it to clear the streets. Cities really have a lot of trouble clearing snow. I remember sitting in a parking lot waiting for my husband one year when Jamestown was hauling the snow away in dump trucks and dumping it into the river.
People used to tease us about the snow that fell in Western New York. Buffalo particularly was well-known for its large amount of snow. I experienced that too, the year that I taught school in Kenmore, a suburb of Buffalo. The street that I lived on had only a narrow band of grass between the sidewalk and the road. Most people walked along the street since the sidewalks were the last things plowed. Once they were plowed the people just disappeared behind the snow banks.
In the years that I have been on my own the winters have varied. We have gone from a large amount of snow to a very insignificant amount of the white stuff. I definitely did not like the years when we got a lot of ice. There is no getting up the driveway even with four-wheel drive when it is a sheet of ice. When it is extremely cold salt does not melt the stuff either.
The day that the snow falls I curl up with a good book and read. I have an adequate library of my own so I always can re-read some of my favorites. Once I am out and about I go to the library to enhance my reading experience. I do not have one of the new-fangled readers that you buy books online for. I still like the feel of a book in my hands, and I find it very easy to slip a marker in when I nearly fall asleep reading.
Winter 2013 is not in the record books yet. It is anyone's guess whether Punxsutawney Phil or Dunkirk Dave will see his shadow this weekend. At any rate I am sure that we can count on at least another six weeks of winter - so enjoy.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.