It’s 68 degrees in Nashville.
It’s January and my children are running around outside in last year’s flip-flops.
Sure, it’s nearly bedtime but no worries. They’ve called off school tomorrow on account of the snow.
Yes. Evidently, tonight while we are all sleeping, the world is going to discover winter once again and rain down 1-3 inches of sleet, snow, and freezing rain. It will be a shock. I’m pretty sure all the critters around here are convinced it’s coming on summer.
I have NO IDEA what’s going on anymore. Our President is publically referring to African countries as “shitholes,” half of my favorite male entertainers have been called out as predatory assholes, my 14-year-old daughter is walking out the door to perform at one of Nashville’s most prominent rock venues, and it’s snowing in the middle of summer. Or maybe it’s summer in the middle of an impending snow storm. Whatever.
At least the weather is not completely unprecedented.
In 2001, shortly before the world ended, I was 24 years old. Recently married, busting my ass at Berklee, I decided it would be a wonderful idea to participate in the Susan Cohen/Avon Breast Cancer walk. Furthermore, a 3-day, 60-mile trek through Massachusetts seemed like just the thing I should convince my mother to do as well. After all, she was a breast cancer survivor. What did a mildewed tent and a couple blisters have on her?
We wrote letters. We raised money. My mom hopped a flight from South Carolina to Boston and we showed up together in Boston Common on a beautiful May morning, ready to hike our hearts out.
It was hot. A thousand women sang along to piped-in Bruce Springsteen while rubbing sunblock on each other’s exposed shoulders. Our luggage – filled with tank tops and extra pairs of socks – was tagged and loaded into vans which would meet us at our evening’s destination, a field about 25 miles outside of town.
At noon we marched off towards the future. It was exhilarating. Trudging along the Mass Pike, I completely forgot that my mother had inadvertently ruined my childhood. We failed to discuss it in the midst of the chanting and laughing, but I’m pretty sure my mother also forgot what a disappointment I was as a daughter.
We walked. We mopped our sweaty brows with the handkerchiefs the organizers had so thoughtfully reminded us to bring. Just when we started to get weary, we were met on the side of the road with juice, bagels, and peanut butter. All was well.
At six in the evening, it began to rain. Delicious cool rain which grew colder and harder by nearly imperceptible increments (like a mean middle-school friend) until we found ourselves outside our event-provided pup tent in an icy, torrential downpour.
We woke in the morning (as if we’d slept at all) damp and marginally discouraged. We pulled on our second set of tank-tops, shorts, and socks, and followed our puffs of breath like breadcrumbs toward the makeshift breakfast line. There, we gratefully accepted soggy paper plates of rubbery scrambled eggs served by dripping women in disposable plastic parkas. We joked and jostled as we set off, but stepping in unavoidable puddles made it a little easier to remember how we’d ruined each other’s lives.
By the second bagel stop, it had started to snow.
Snow in May is a difficult thing to accept, even in New England. All around us, a thousand women looked up, down, all around – bobbleheads trying to get their bearings. Woefully underdressed, we pressed on, certain that summer would win just around the next bend.
By noon, the vans that had diligently followed us at a whopping five miles an hour had all sped past, carting freezing women to some undisclosed warm location. Every hour or so a new convoy would come through calling out through airhorns, “There is limited space, if you can continue walking, please do so.”
The walk was canceled. We were diverted to a vacant school and met by paramedics with thermometers and mylar blankets. My body temperature was 95.6; my mother’s was 95.4. We sat wrapped up like helium balloons until Mike could get there to pick us up. It took him an hour to travel the distance we’d covered in two days.
I don’t know why I’m telling this story now. Maybe it’s because of a Mary Poppins change in the wind – the temperature is supposed to drop 45 degrees in the next 12 hours. Maybe it’s because I miss my mother.
Whatever the reason, in the morning, if all goes as forecasted, I’ll get my kids up, bundle them in seasonally appropriate clothing and send them out to build snowmen beside the scooters they left sitting out today in the sun. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll even have room for a snow angel.