I’ve lived in Minnesota for most of my adult life, but I’ve long held a grudge that winter arrives a little earlier and departs a little later than in the small Iowa town where I grew up.
It adds about three extra weeks of winter, which is why I head south every January to reclaim some of the warmer weather I’m owed.
The flight back is tough, but it’s leavened by the knowledge that this cold season brings out a charming defiant streak in my Minnesota Nice adopted home state. Storms that would paralyze other places are greeted with a “we got this” attitude. Blizzards, freezing rain, bad visibility? Meh, we’re Minnesotans. We have parkas, Sorel boots, monster snowplows and four-wheel drive.
A phone call on a snowy day a few years back brought home how deeply I’ve come to admire this cold weather can-do, even if I don’t always share it.
I was getting ready to go home from work on Dec. 23, 2010, when the phone rang. It was Mick, the husband of one of my oldest friends. Their family of five was flying back to Iowa for Christmas from their current home in Egypt, but had been stranded in Germany for days due to snow. Finally, they’d caught a flight to Washington, D.C., but now another massive snowstorm was shutting down airports across the nation’s upper half.
Their best shot at getting home in time for Christmas? Mick didn’t even have to finish. “Let me guess,” said the Minnesotan on the other end of the line. “Good old MSP is the airport most likely to stay open during the storm, right?”
Yes, that was the case. Mick also couldn’t find a rental car in the Twin Cities so close to the holiday. But luckily, he was talking to an always-prepared-for-winter Minnesotan. I had just the vehicle for the snowy trek to Iowa: “Big Blue,” our semiretired Chevy four-door pickup truck with four-wheel drive.
MSP was one of the last northern airports still open when they landed that night. I met them with a gassed-up Big Blue, a plate of cookies and lots of blankets. In the meantime, the snowstorm had turned fiercer. A tired Mick looked anxious.
“Just keep it slow and steady and you’ll get through,” I told him. All around us, jets were still roaring off into the night and cars were confidently heading out onto the roads. Yeah, we were getting socked by storm, but so what? That cold-weather can-do was contagious, and the visitors from Egypt piled into the truck.
They arrived five hours later, road-weary but safe. I was not only grateful to see their family but delighted by winter-savvy Minnesota’s role in getting them home at last for the holidays. Come March, I’ll be griping about the long winters here. But I remain inspired by a home state that meets winter’s challenge the way that all of life’s challenges should be met: head-on.
JILL BURCUM, editorial writer
Ask about a big blizzard, and those of a certain age will recall Armistice Day in 1940.
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