Will this year’s mild winter and capricious April weather pass without a surprise blizzard? It happened in March of 2008. Now, warm and cozy indoors, as cold winds buffet my windows, I am filled with memories of another March blizzard over fifty years ago.
My 28th birthday was near as Len and I and our two young sons, six and three, moved into our first home that was not a rental apartment. Although barely settled in, what better occasion to show off our prize, so a party was planned.
When the day dawned, heavy wet snowflakes belied the promise of spring. An unexpected storm, but my Eagle Scout husband was up to the task of greeting our guests with a welcoming blaze in our first ever fireplace.
Minutes after a match was put to the kindling, we knew all was not well. The scent of wood burning, evocative of past romantic campfires, began to fill the house. A delight at first, but soon ominous. Smoke billowed into the living room, little to none drawn up the chimney. As the tiles and mantle began to blacken with soot, doors and windows were thrown open.
I was immobilized. Not so Len. Somehow he wrestled the burning logs into a galvanized tub and carried them to the front yard, now buried in eight inches of snow. Tipping the glowing logs out, great bursts of steam arose, just as our friends arrived on foot from their nearby homes, agog at the drama that greeted their entry into our chilled smoky house.
I’ve often laughed over this memory, but now I’ve been thinking about why this look back brings both pleasure and insight.
Len was always ready to act in a crisis, and it was his nature to be both a protector and a caretaker, which was welcomed by this avowed feminist. The time soon came when he made law school possible for me. For three evenings each week, for four years, he took over nighttime child care. Then once I entered the professional world, he listened to my daily stories of victory and defeat. If I felt unfairly treated, he was ever ready to confront my adversaries, actions this avowed feminist declined.
Len, far less verbal than I was about his own feelings and struggles, was sometimes despondent about his career. A scientist who loved university teaching, he felt thwarted by the ever present pressure to seek research funding. I, the more optimistic, urged him to seek alternate satisfactions.
For me, the purchase of our home symbolized stability and commitment to place. He, possessed of a wanderlust and a lover of the wilderness, remained tentative about urban home ownership in the mid-west. Then came the time when my income, from the career he’d fostered, made possible the purchase of a small two-seater plane in which he frequently flew away to yearned for fishing lakes and mountains. Our home became more of a haven, and remained so until his death in the fifty-third year of our marriage
What is the opposite of losing? It is finding. Lost is the delicate balance achieved with a loved partner which the blizzard memory brings into sharp focus, how we grew to rely on each others’ strengths, compensated for each others’ shortcomings, some passions shared, others not.
Found was the ability to perform a new balancing act on my own, while still protected by the love and promise of safekeeping offered by children and close friends, and warmed by gratitude, renewed by reflections on a remembered March blizzard.