Cry Havoc and Let Slip One Inch of Snow

1781958_10202268250500702_631927003_nIt’s a Snowmaggedon here in Georgia.  Tuesday, as I made my way to Kroger for essentials (cocoa mix, milk, cheese, wine, toilet paper, apples, marshmallows), I laughed to see that there was only ONE cart left in the giant corral of carts by the entrance.  One.  But you better believe I hopped on it like a duck on a bug.  Winter weather in Georgia is cause for panic.  The mood of the day put me in mind of that line from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” where Antony worries that Caesar’s pissed off ghost will “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”  In ancient times, “Havoc” was a military command that basically gave the troops permission to pillage, murder and sack.  So when the commander cried HAVOC…things ended up looking much like the bread aisle at Kroger.

I have friends from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Maine, Illinois–all of whom roll their eyes at us Southerners when we panic at the first sign of snow.  Yes, WE GET IT.  You have seen more snow in your lifetime.  You don’t understand what all the fuss is about.  In your book, this is NOTHING.  They would NEVER close schools back where you’re from.  Good for you.

For those of you who have grown jaded to snow, here’s a little insight into a snow day in Georgia:

  • As long as you get to choose when to be out in it, we still think snow is FUN.  It makes the dogs all giddy.  It even glosses over the piles of dog crap in the backyard.  It’s so unusual that it makes our kids all hyped up, like your kids would be if they suddenly got a pleasant day–sunny and 65–in the middle of January.  We get sunny and 65 all the time and it doesn’t freak us out.  We don’t rush to the store for sunscreen and margarita mix like y’all do.  
  • joySnow means “play” for young and old.  I spent $60 on sleds from the Army Surplus store this morning and my boss–who grew up in Indiana then Colorado–said, “YOU CAN’T SLED IN ONE INCH OF SNOW!”  Um, yeah–you can.  My kids would sled in the ice maker if I would let them give it a try.  We have a steep hill in the backyard coated in a bunch of crunchy grass and a thin skin of snow.  We. Are. Sledding.  I don’t care if it’s on an old shower curtain liner, a trash can lid or a fancy sled that will dry rot in the garage before we have a chance to use it again.
  • Yes, lots of snow is better for snowy activities, but we are snow beggers and cannot be snow choosers.  I have been snowboarding in Utah on two feet of fresh powder and it was delightful.  I have skied down the Stubaier Glacier in Innsbruck, Austria (in a very pokey fashion) and it was ripping fantastic (once I found a pocket of oxygen).  But an inch of snow can be a treasured childhood memory if it only happens once or twice in your life.  I still remember the week we were out of school in 1982 or 1983 due to snow.  Our house was the only one in town with a wood burning stove for heat and a gas stove for cooking.  Someone found an old sled at the antique dealer’s house.  My mom made real cocoa in a pan on the wood stove.  Our Irish Setter played until his coat was matted with icicles.  I’ll never forget that week because it not very often that we have an excuse to stop what we’re supposed to be doing and play.  
  • OK, we do talk about snow incessantly if there is any threat of a flake falling.  It is the only topic of conversation, whether the conversation be with a stranger, your coworkers, or the weatherman on the television set as we beg, “Please please please say it’s going to happen!”  Again, we talk about snow because it is exceptional for us (the same way transplants to the South talk about gnats and humidity and the fat content of mayonnaise–things we got over long ago).
  • chickenGo ahead and make the jokes about how we run to the grocery store for milk and bread.  Things can get dicey here pretty quickly when the roads freeze up, the power lines start snapping and the trucks can’t keep up.  We lost power for two days when Vivi was a toddler and it scared the crap out of me.  My brother got stuck in that epic traffic jam in Atlanta tonight–almost 10 hours to go from Buckhead to Marrietta (10-15 miles).  But guess what?  He made it OK because he had an 8 piece pack of chicken in his truck.   He had the good sense to stop by the grocery store first!

So y’all go on and roll your eyes if you must while we Southerners dash around with our mismatched mittens, insufficient footwear, and complete lack of black ice driving maneuvers.  I will be over here on my shiny new sled, just like it’s Christmas morning.  Or I will be in the E.R. with a head wound and some fried chicken in my purse.  

19 thoughts on “Cry Havoc and Let Slip One Inch of Snow

  1. Jan Lawrence

    I remember those days…. And my mother can tell you about the sled she bought in the 70s that hung unused for years …. at least mostly unused. I think I have seen it in use in a couple of pictures. (In fact, she mentioned it on Facebook yesterday)!

  2. Susan Fliegel

    Normally, I enjoy our Southern snow days. But this time everyone had gone to work and school because the weather forecasters had ALL said the Birmingham area would get a light dusting, with no accumulation. By the time we knew they were wrong, it was too late for many of us. Trust me, the last place you want to be stranded is at work. Not fun.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      I hear that. Did you get home OK? At least I work at a hospital, where we have plenty of food, beds, and generators! But I’m deemed “non-essential” in events like this because I can work from home.

    2. Ellen

      That truly would be miserable, but it would be the next to last, at least in Atlanta. In Atlanta, it was probably a fair distance from last. They might even consider you fortunate. 🙂

      Trapped on the Interstate for 8 hours, not even half-way home in your normal 20 minute commute would be closer to the last place! Especially with a baby and a toddler and no food or water. Or delivering a baby.

      The biggest cause of the catastrophe in Atlanta was the closing of schools, businesses, and government offices at exactly the same time. The city went from traffic flowing relatively well to gridlock in about 20 or 30 minutes.

  3. Wesleyankat

    Andrew used a waterskiing kneeboard and wake board to sled yesterday. I would rather we all go crazy at the first mention of snow than what happened yesterday happen again.

  4. Amanda Harris

    I roll my eyes WAAAAAY more about Marylanders (where I live) who freak out about snow since it happens SEVERAL TIMES EVERY WINTER!!! For those in the South, it completely makes sense to both prepare and be giddy, since it’s only about a once-in-a-decade occurrence. So glad you, the kids and the dogs enjoyed the fluffy white stuff. I remember when I was 8 or 9, living in Gainesville, Florida, and my dad would pick me up from school on his bicycle–I’d sit on the crossbar on the way home. And one day on the way home, it started snowing! Well, when I got home, I went to 10 neighbors’ houses to collect snow off of all of their cars so I could build a 6-inch tall snowman, which I kept in the freezer for MONTHS. 36 years later, and I still remember that. Good for you for giving your kids chances to build great memories.

  5. livingpruf

    This was a FABULOUS piece of writing! I grew up in the Rocky Mountain region. This made the Atlanta response to “snow” more than a little perplexing to me … at first. After living here for seventeen years it is clear people forget everything and anything they ever knew about action and reaction. Thank you for making my day with your humor!

  6. Chris Antenen

    Okay, here’s grandma talking about how I walked miles (actually one) to school in deep snow in Illinois. My parents grew up in Minnesota, so they had better stories – one-horse open sleigh stories. But I remember when my children were kids here in beautiful Georgia, I welcomed snow. Sleep late, get out the warm clothes, and help build a snowman when they were little.

    The first year we had snow in Georgia, I dropped my daughter off at kindergarten.. Snow? Luckily there was a nice janitor there who called us. It was less than an inch of snow!. (I taught school in the middle of corn fields in Illinois — snow tires, the whole scene — also beautiful;)

    Contrary to your memory of a yankee’s attitude toward snow, I’m one of thse ‘damned yankees’ — I stayed. And unlike some of your examples, I kept my mouth shut and adapted. I’m sure I asked THE question of someone. “So let me get this straight, one inch of snow and everything shuts down?” And I’m sure I walked away laughing and thinking, “i’m sure I can handle that.” ,

    We were ‘lucky’ enough to live at the top of ‘suicide hill’ in Green Acres, so the whole subdivision of kids was there. I had mittens hanging in front of the fireplace, kids warming themselves by the fire, and hot chocolate on the stove — and large bandaids. I had made a pot of spaghetti as soon as the weatherman said ‘significant snowfall.’ There would never be more than 5 or 6 or 10 at a time, and they all knew each other because of the summer swim team. It was really fun. Lest you think I think I’m some kind of saint of a mother, remember it happened so seldom that it was new every time. Even a house full of kids you like can get old after a while?

    I love snow in Georgia. Good memories.

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  8. Heart To Harp

    I still have my sled that I got when I was seven. Hasn’t dry rotted yet. And yes, of course you CAN sled on an inch of snow, as we both know. You just have to believe…..


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