Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cold Determination

and this one is true...

     I arrived at the university full of vague hopes, fond wishes, pleasant dreams, and one concrete goal.  I never wrote it in my planner, but it was clearly defined in my mind, measurable, reportable.  I was determined not to slip and fall on the ice more than once that winter.
     In the maritime climate of my Maryland upbringing, snow was a rare occurrence.  The scarcity of snow led to its identification with delightful surprises.  "Our football team won the game?" a friend might say.  "It's going to snow!" 
     If snow did fall, we thrilled at the sight of the first flakes, and hoped they would stick.  When an inch or two accumulated, my sisters and I would cluster around the radio, listening to the alphabetical list of school cancellations as the various counties phoned in their bids.  One hour late . . . Two hours late . . . Closed.  Jackpot!  If a few more inches fell, the "non-essential workers" would be sent home from the capital.  Beltway traffic was snarly enough in good weather; no one needed those impatient drivers to get stuck in the snow.  Whether the total came to three inches or three feet, with an inch-thick layer of ice on the top, the result was the same:  everyone stayed home and let the snowplows do their work.  We would sled down our front yard, build forts in the back, and try to enjoy the white stuff before it turned slushy and melted in a day or two. 
     My parents, who hailed from a different climate, assured me that in places where it really snows, life goes on.  People put on their snow tires and drive sensibly.  Snow doesn't melt all winter, and schools never close.  Thus warned, I went to further my education in Utah, which boasts the "greatest snow on earth."
     When the first flakes fell that winter, I was thrilled, as usual.  As it piled up on the ground, I wrapped myself in my puffy yellow corduroy coat, put on the most sensible shoes I possessed, and continued to walk all over campus.  I trusted the army of students employed in the Grounds Crew to arise early and apply their plows, shovels, and salt to the walkways.  I watched my step, and stayed upright.
     I was quite pleased with my success toward the end of classes in December.  I even wore ordinary shoes from time to time, but stayed wary.  Constant vigilance was the key.  Then, after studying form and function in my History of the Decorative Arts class one day, I left the Fine Arts building with some of my classmates.  Perhaps I was too eager to eat lunch.  Maybe I was distracted by conversation.  I only remember that when I reached the top of the short flight of icy stairs, my heel slipped out in front of me.  I fell, bouncing as I went.  It was a spectacular slide.  When the others caught up, concerned, I just had to laugh.  I had allowed myself one fall, and it turned out to be splendid.
     Putting that slip behind me, I went forth into the new semester with stronger determination.  I am pleased to say that I did complete my goal of keeping my seat off the concrete for the rest of the winter.
     The next winter was a different story.  I learned that my first year had been rather light on snow, by Utah's standards, and the mountain reservoirs held little for the farmers the next summer.  Returning to school, we were all encouraged to pray for "moisture."  Our prayers were answered with abundant snow.  Having grown complacent in my uprightness, I set no goal regarding slips and trips.  Therefore, I crashed on the same icy spot on my way home every day for a week. 
     I guess the moral of the story might be:

If at first you do succeed,
stick with the program!


  1. I love your magpie. I can relate to it coming from a climate where there is no snow, to being in Utah in the winter time.

    My daughter, her husband and my grandchildren live in Utah, and we have visited during Christmas. Cold and beautiful is all I can say.

  2. Our snow is causing chaos as usual, because we get it so infrequently...for which let us be truly thankful!

  3. good story! We live in the Pacific Northwest and when we get 2-3" of snow all hell breaks one can drive in the stuff and then it turns to ice! I can relate to not wanting to slip!

  4. That is painfully funny. Having grown up in So. CA and moving to Kansas, for my Junior and Senior year in HS, I can totally relate!

  5. 'studying form and function'

    Well, there you go. Alas, something you could use in real life.
    What did the East German judge give you on your first tumble?


  6. Great story, I hate falling on it too, loved the last line.

  7. Interesting how we confront the challenges of snowfall, both heavy and light. It takes us way back.

  8. The first flakes have begun here. Late this year, but that is alright. We shall probably see snow now until March, so a slip or two might happen in my world (especially if I don't get my snow tires on my van!) cute story.

  9. Ouch. I feel that stairfall. Ouch. Love your story!