Yesterday was not a good day.
My partner was ill and we spent the day in the Emergency Room. When we emerged late in the afternoon to go home, the streets were covered in snow and the visibility was horrible.
I can’t lie — I took it personally. I felt like the weather was making an already difficult day more difficult, like Mother Nature was holding a grudge against me.
I drove home, our car crawling through the streets like all the others, and got my partner settled before heading out again for a trip to the store and to pick up our kids. The roads were slick and I slid through the city streets, hoping for the best.
Once we were all home and dinner was over and our lives returned to the usual, I started praying for a snow day. I wanted to stay home and make scones with the kids and drink hot chocolate.
More than anything, I didn’t want to have to drive anywhere. I wanted an excuse to be still.
But today was not a snow day. Because, if there is one thing Minnesotans do well, it’s handling snow.
As my daughter and I made our way to the car this morning, she stopped, looked around and said, “You have to admit the snow is beautiful.”
I took a moment and noticed the way the snow clung to the bare branches of the trees and the smooth untouched drifts that looked like frozen dunes. Yes, there is beauty in fresh snow.
After dropping off my daughter, I drove home and noticed the way we all give each other space. There is a politeness on these wintry days that is often missing. We pull over and allow each other to pass. We are patient. We slow down. We recognize that driving in snow and ice is a dance that requires partnership.
And when accidents occur, everyone involved seems just a bit more inclined to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Ice and snow and the laws of physics are to blame. We understand we could be the ones to slide or spin or fail to stop.
There is a feeling of solidarity that swirls in the blowing snow. When I shoveled the walk this morning, I noticed my neighbor had already done part of it.
I looked down the street and saw other people shoveling. As they looked up from their work, we smiled and nodded at each other. It felt like we were engaged in common work.
I’ve watched people band together to push cars from snow. I have helped others and been helped in return. When tires start spinning, it seems there is always someone nearby with sand or a shovel or two hands to give a push.
I think back to my trip to the store last night. The snow was falling so quickly and the store was nearly empty but the employees were still there. I wondered how long the cashier would be staying. So I asked.
She told me she would be leaving soon but takes the light rail anyway. She wasn’t worried.
“Good,” I said. “I’m glad you don’t have to drive.”
She handed me my bag and said, “I hope you get home safe.” And there wasn’t a moment during that exchange when I doubted how very much each of us meant what we were saying.
Minnesota keeps moving
I have friends all over the country who have endured unusual amounts of snow this winter. Many of those cities are not equipped to deal with it so they have completely shut down. My kids find it fascinating when schools shut down in Texas at the threat of snow or in Knoxville for a couple of inches.
Meanwhile, life continues here in Minnesota with even a foot of snow.
As much as my kids want snow days, I can see glimpses of pride. They have only known Minnesota winters and they already recognize the hardiness required.
This morning as I pulled away from the curb through a big pile of snow, my daughter said, “California would shut down if it snowed like this!”
I smiled and said, “They’d shut down for much less.”
I watched her in the rearview mirror and could see the hint of a smile as she nodded.
I grew up in Kansas City. Our winters were nothing like the ones I’ve enduring since moving to Minnesota 24 years ago. I've adapted.
But when friends who live in warmer, less snowy places ask why I live here I don’t always have a good answer.
But today, if you ask me why, I will tell you that I love who we become when it snows.
We are the best versions of ourselves — thoughtful, friendly, compassionate, generous and kind.
Be careful out there. Stay warm. I mean it.
Vikki Reich is a local writer who used to blog for the Star Tribune.
ABOUT 10,000 Takes: 10,000 Takes is a new digital section featuring first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives about love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota.