Thanks to all who have so kindly asked if my family and I are OK, after the deadly storms that swept through the South during the past couple of days. We are so thankful that family and friends made it through. In the towns where my husband and I live and work — the Shoals, Alabama; and Corinth and Tupelo, Mississippi, — there’s only minor damage from flooding and downed tree limbs. In Huntsville, Alabama, Older Daughter and her family are without power, and they lost tree limbs and parts of their back-yard fence. Of course, other places were not so lucky. A couple of nearby small communities are completely devastated and the death toll is climbing. Please join us in praying for those who are grieving and suffering today.
Snow! We have snow in the South!! Also: We have a national championship!!! I’m not sure which delights folks more. Oh, wait, of course it’s Auburn winning the national Bowl Championship Series title. I tried to pick out friends who’d made the trip to Arizona as the TV cameras panned over the thousands and thousands of Tigers fans, but all that orange and blue sort of blended together into one. Like the team itself. (And my sports-editor husband doesn’t think I could be a sportswriter!). Back home, far away from the televised football frenzy, the soft fluffy comforter of snow (I refuse to use the “blanket” cliché) still is keeping things quiet. In my town of Corinth, Miss., the square is deserted except for folks like me out walking and snapping shots such as this one of the Fillmore Street Presbyterian Church — and families mounting riotous snowball fights in the streets. In my family, the competition as always centers on art. Older Daughter reported that she started out making a snow-kid for our 2 3/4-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable. It turned into a snow tower, which she felt looked a bit … well … anatomical, so she changed it to something she called a snow bunny by adding ears and arms. Her artist husband, however, created an entire snow train, topped off with actual ashes from their fireplace for the tinder box. Artistry on the football field combined with artistry in a snowy front yard — I love the South!
Here in northwest Alabama, we seem to really be getting winter this year. Usually we can count on mild and sunny with only a couple of freezing wet and dreary days here and there to remind us what winter is. But this year I’m starting to understand terms such as “winter blues” and “cabin fever” — we’ve had several runs of bitterly cold temps and wintery mix precipitation and looks as if that’s continuing. Ugh. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to amuse us — when my ugly winter raincoat is the most-worn item in my closet, I’m up for any bit of fun that comes my way. Luckily, Younger Daughter is hanging out at home before grad school starts. She’s taught me to play two-person Nertz (I even win every once in awhile), convinced me to take a tap-dance class with her (and has the grace not to laugh) and joined me in unhealthy addictions to “reality” TV (we think Jake the Jerk Bachelor deserves to end up with Vienna the Car-Wrecking Daddy’s Girl). Plus, she’s always up for a batch of chocolate-chip cookie dough — the perfect antidote for too much winter. And go here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nertz to find out about Nertz. I think it goes by many other names and many variations, but we play fast and simply: Get rid of your stack first and you’re the winner. Because we need more time to eat that cookie dough.
Now, we here in the mid-South do get freezing temperatures every year or so — for about a day or maybe two or three at the most. Not uncommon at all — we have to have a reason to wear all those scarves and gloves we got for Christmas, you know. But this week-long run of sustained bitter cold we’re in right now is a bit unusual. We’re talking really and truly cold here — pipe-bursting, fountain-freezing, thermal underwear-wearing, do-not-go-outside-without-your coat-and-hat cold. Brrrrrrrr. I was driving through downtown Florence, Alabama, on Monday afternoon and had to look twice at this hotel fountain to realize it was frozen absolutely solid. Younger Daughter just got back from a trip to Portland, Maine, to visit her very cool uncle and aunt (my younger brother and his wife) and except for the snow she said she feels as if she’s still there. Also except for the warming effects of napping with their 125-pound Alaskan malamute, Thule. Although in Maine folks are probably experienced enough to turn their fountains off when freezing weather threatens. I’m just saying.
Breaking news! It’s snowing in Alabama!!! We don’t get winter very often around here, but the weather folks were right this time. It’s a soft and lazy couple inches right now but supposed to get worse as temps stay below freezing and the snow continues all morning. I took these photos on our back deck looking into the backyard where earlier this week we were sitting out on the deck enjoying a glass of wine and some wonderfully warm temperatures. Now we’ve got a “major winter storm.” I know, I know — for all y’all used to blizzards and snow drifts and shoveling your car out of the driveway these are pictures of spring-like weather, but believe me this is big-time Southern winter. And we love it! Makes me want to hunker down, bring in more firewood or, really, turn the logs on and make another pot of coffee. It does not make me want to find some snow boots and mittens and a scarf and a jacket and go out tramping around. I love snow. It’s beautiful and wonderful — and best viewed through a window. Which is why my part in ski vacations is to stay warm and dry at the bottom of the slopes and nod and applaud enthusiastically as family members shoosh on by: “Good job! Nice run! Way to go!” I’m really good at that.
If you’re stuck inside today, be sure to read about Paul Harvey, who died on Saturday. Back in the early 1980s when I was a newbie newspaper reporter, I was thrilled — absolutely thrilled — when Paul Harvey read on air a story of mine AP had picked up on this new phenomenon of Elvis Presley impersonators. I focused on a young boy — I think he was 6 or 7 — who was making a local name for himself by donning a white sparkling jumpsuit and belting out “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog.” Thank you for that, Mr. Harvey. You never knew what you meant to a young journalist in east Tennessee. Read more about this influential man at http://www.abcrn.com/harvey/.
Lunchtime on Friday, Sept. 12, in Tupelo, Miss., and you could feel — and see — the panic well ahead of any bad weather Ike was bringing. “If you need gas now, you’d better go get it before things get wild,” my husband had called me as I was walking around downtown (OK, I was really shopping, but he doesn’t need to know that). And he was right. As news of shut refineries and hurricane damages and low supplies and rising prices sped through town, lines lengthened at service stations and spilled out to streets — and pumps that didn’t have lines were already empty. I even saw a fight almost break out between two women in pickup trucks competing for vacant spot — but perhaps they had a history between them unrelated to filling up before gas hit $4. Anyway, it was too late. At 11 a.m., gas was $3.57. By 1 p.m., it was $4.20. And rising. Yikes.