We should have been prepared but I was too used to the weather forecasters in New York putting out a pumped up warning for a huge hurricane to blow its way up the east coast creating a swath of destruction right through the heart of the city. Everyone take cover, board up the windows, baton down anything not bolted to the terrace floor. Slow news days made for big erroneous weather headlines and I figured this was just another bit of weather hype served up Wisconsin style. Wow, was I wrong. The day started out just as our local meteorologist predicted, a little light flurry, nothing big. No reason to run to the HyVee or Woodman’s to build up the supplies in the larder. I did think I should look for a shovel to put in the trunk of the Ford Escort, our current means of transportation, a featherweight auto not meant for the icy covered streets of the snow belt. The only option I could see was the second shovel at my mom’s house, the one where the wooden handle and the plastic blue scoop were unattached so every time you took a scoop of snow and threw it to the side of the driveway the snow and the scoop both flew into the snow bank leaving me with a slender wooden pole. Even though the ability to separate the scoop from the pole made it the right size for storing in the trunk, I figured it was still pretty useless. All in all, we weren’t prepared for a major snowfall, but then Madison wasn’t prepared either. It takes a lot for Madison to close down due to snow or cold. They pride themselves in having state-of-the-art snow removal technology and a fleet of equipment to rival any city but even that wasn't enough to combat the storm that was brewing to our west.
It wasn’t long into the day before the big snow drop day that the little line at the bottom of the TV screen popped up on all the local stations with school and government closings scrolling by. Local weather celebrities started interrupting Ellen and Oprah telling us we should expect eight to ten inches, then they upped it to ten to twelve and by the time "The Housewives of Atlanta"rerun was coming to end the expectations had topped the fourteen inch mark. This time they weren’t lying. The snow started in earnest around eight that evening, a wet heavy snow made up of flakes that stung your face. By the time we woke up in the morning everything the scrolling line told us what we already assumed: everything had been shut down. Our world was buried under a layer of thick sparkling white. We were now held hostage by the elements. Emmy was in heaven. Schoolmates had told her all the local rituals for insuring a no school snow day. You either slept with a silver spoon under your pillow, or wore your pajamas inside out and backwards. Every kid in town woke up that morning with silver spoons tangled in the hair and their pajamas sporting the dull images of Sponge Bob or the Little Mermaid as seen from the reverse side.
Now we are completely snowed in, no work, no school, no bus service, and the final snow total measuring out at a whooping eighteen plus inches. We felt this was God giving us permission to not answer our emails, study for the upcoming math quiz or deal with anything remotely resembling our deeper woes. What we did decide to do was light a fire in the fireplace, put on some Christmas music and let the inner Martha come out in all of us as we finished decorating the apartment for the holiday to come. The theme was rustic elegance. Two dollar grapevine wreaths were transformed with red delicious apples, walnuts, hazelnuts and ribbons cut from a slightly off-white piece of burlap. The dining table held a sliver tray lit with the fragrance of burning cinnamon candles surrounded by more nuts, apples and boughs cut from our tree. The tree, a masterpiece in antique white, dripped glass icicles, red globes that reflected the tiny incandescent lights, garlands made from stripes of regular white paper and some of the vintage felt ornaments my mother made when she new Tuesday followed Monday. There’s nothing better for drawing a family closer together than being captured by Mother Nature at Christmastime surrounded by mountains of delicious snow, a warm fire blazing in front of the hearth and three separate souls hot gluing a new set of holiday traditions.