I was five when the Blizzard of 1978 shut down Rhode Island for several days. My father got stuck at his office in Providence, for days that eventually morphed into weeks in family lore.
Everyone lost power in our coastal community. My mother, two-year-old brother, and I trudged a couple of blocks in the dark to camp with neighbors who had a wood stove. Cross country skis were involved. (My first ones were made by Karhu, of wood, and they were red and schlepped from Finland in hand luggage.) My brother sat in a sled and held a flashlight.
(I have many childhood memories of my brother holding a flashlight. It was his lot in our family life before he grew and graduated to carrying heavy items.)
That was the storm during which people became disoriented in their yards and died. And got trapped in their cars and died on the interstate.
I'm not certain 1978 was the one from which we learned to shut down cities before a major storm hits, but it at least got people thinking about common sense planning: travel bans and parking bans and emergency plans to get hospital staff to work.
The Blizzard of 2015 was kid stuff in comparison to 1978, but it gave the Grape two days off from school, and inspired a cooking frenzy in my kitchen.
Tuesday we racked up almost two feet of fluffy powder, but the winds weren't blowing anywhere near the forecasted "DOOM" levels here in Boston. So we logged many hours on the sledding hill.
But the best part was when the whole family trooped outside for a walk and some after bedtime sledding.
Boston looked like Finland Tuesday night, before the plows got any roads cleared down to pavement, and I wanted the Grape to see.
"We're making memories," I assured R., who very briefly questioned whether a fourth full-family trek into the storm was absolutely necessary.
I can't remember the city being so quiet. Even the bars and liquor stores were closed. Everything had stopped, except for the plows.
The silence of the stores reminded me of the way holidays used to be, before the big box stores set out to ruin Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the department stores followed suit.
The Grape kept marveling at the snow covered, empty streets, and saying, "It's so beautiful." The snow was still coming down at this point, the travel ban still in place. Lila the Dog bounded ahead and we pulled the Grape in his sled. "It's like magic," he said.
I marveled that he was the only little kid out there taking it in, climbing the snow mountains to stand next to the stop lights and street signs while no cars skidded below.
"Take it in now, because it will all be salted and plowed away tomorrow," we told him.
After our walk, we went sledding in the park in the dark. It was a little before 9 o'clock and he was the only kid on the hill—the same hill that had been jam packed with his friends six hours earlier.
I thought it was a shame that no other little ones were out there to see the magic, the snow flickering against the streetlights for one rare silent night.
When something this special happens, bedtime can wait.