Our relatives in London were hoping we’re okay. Our friend outside Tokyo was wishing us well. My friend in Ontario said they have had very little snow this winter. We've heard from Brazil and Norman, Okla., and Grapevine, Tex., and my sister Jane outside Atlanta, waxing nostalgic about childhood sledding on Red Brick Hill in Queens.
That is the difference between now and the great storms of the distant past. We are all connected.
Nowadays the storms have doomsday theme music on the all-news radio. Sometimes they live up to the hype. This one fell short of the worst-case. The storm veered eastward on Long Island -- which is 120 miles long -- and we got what looks like 6-8 inches to me, but officially could be 8-12 in this area, near the city. The lights have not flickered here.
There was no all-news radio back in 1947 when I was 8 years old. I don’t remember any warning whatsoever. It just snowed and snowed – 26.4 inches, one source says. Did my father miss work because he couldn’t get to the subway? (There was no “working from home” the way some members of the family are doing on Tuesday.) How long were we out from school in 1947? How did my mom feed us all? How long was it before my Irish grandmother walked to church? I don’t remember.
I remember two things from that Big One of 1947 – the Rose Bowl on the radio on New Year’s Day, touching off national envy of sunny California (Michigan beat USC, 49-0; I looked it up) and also a major thaw, days or weeks later, sun glaring in our eyes, rivers flowing down off the glacial hills of Queens, toward Hillside Avenue, kids sloshing up to our knees.
The point of reference in 1947 was the Big One of 1888 – 21 inches, according to one source, with drifts 30 feet high. Thirty feet? The newspapers of 1947 carried 1888 photos of wires sagging over narrow city streets, a locomotive overturned. People in 1947 who were the age I am now talked with great clarity about their own memories of 1888, without the help of electronic clips.
In recent years, the web sites of our age tell me there have been other two-foot storms in New York. They all tend to blur, which is a good sign, because it means we survived.
The worst hardship came from Sandy, two years ago, when we were out of juice for 10 days but people on the Atlantic coast, friends, suffered much worse. I have no complaints.
To Sam and Jen in Islington, Haruko outside Tokyo, Bruce in Hamilton, Altenir in Rio, RJ in Oklahoma, Jane outside Atlanta: we’ve charged our gadgets, put batteries in the mobile lanterns and flashlights, checked the all-weather cord to the generator from our lovely neighbors out back, that would give us a modest charge, if and when.
Fifty years from now, some people will tell their grandkids about the Big One of 2015. For the record: I just saw a snowplow down the hill, scraping the road clear, and our neighbor Kirk cleared our driveway for us. It's all good.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.