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February 11, 2014

A snow baby

According to family lore, I was born during a snowstorm. My dad drove my mom to the hospital, all of two blocks away in our tiny Indiana town. When they got there in the middle of the night, Mom was rarin’ to go but the doctor was not.

He had been up all the previous night delivering babies (I said it was a small town; I didn’t say it wasn’t Catholic), so he was at his home out in the boonies, sleeping. When the hospital tried to call him, there was no answer. In order to help him get some rest, his wife had reportedly taken the phone off the hook, which is probably not a method most med schools recommend.

Panicked, my father left my highly dilated mom with a kindly nun in the maternity ward and raced through the blizzard to retrieve the good doctor. In normal weather, with a non-maniac at the wheel, the drive from the hospital to the doctor’s home on the outskirts of town would have taken about 10 minutes. It’s a lovely drive, with the sleepy village giving way to forests and fallow cornfields, ending with a long jaunt up a steep gravel driveway. Given the circumstances and my father’s personality, it probably took him about 60 seconds.

Frantically ringing the doorbell and knocking at the front door didn’t rouse the sleeping doctor and his wife, so Dad, who was not what anybody ever called “outdoorsy,” traipsed through the drifting snow, knocking on bedroom windows and, most likely, screaming his fool head off in between under-his-breath epithets for unborn infants, wives, doctors, doctors’ wives and, perhaps, I dunno, the Chicago Cubs and one or more of the deities that comprise the Holy Trinity. In my mind’s eye, he was Yosemite Sam but less chipper.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, the nun advised this to my mother, who was getting nervous about my impending appearance upon the stage: “Cross your legs.” This is probably an indication that, while nuns can be counted on to offer sage advice in many situations, childbirth might not be one of them.

With his customary German persuasiveness, my father finally got the sleepy doctor’s attention and fetched him to the hospital before Mom could do any permanent damage to my brain (other than possibly over-stimulating whatever synapses make it permanently obvious to see what Republicans are doing wrong).

Here’s another fun fact: The hospital where I was born was called Stork Memorial Hospital. Top that as a place to be born!

It’s astonishing to me now to think of the trauma my parents must have suffered to bring my crybaby ass into the world (Mom’s ordeal being arguably more significant than Dad’s). But maybe that snowy birth story is also why I love snow. I have always had a slightly manic glee about snowfall, the deeper the better.

One of my favorite memories as a kid is the 1977 blizzard that got us out of school for a month of gleeful sledding. Another is the 1978 blizzard that got us out of school for another month of gleeful sledding, combined with mild intoxicants. And then there’s the blissful ignorance I apparently have thanks to missing two whole months of school in the ’70s, when the vintage was Rebel Yell and the cannabis was sativa. I also fondly recall the 1994 blizzard, when Al Purnell, of TV sausage fame, personally saved my life, but that is probably a story for another time. (For now, let’s just say he’s goooooood.) And now there is 2014, a sugar-glazed dreamscape.

So, yes, this has been my kind of winter. I understand if it’s not yours. My heart goes out to those who are living on the streets. And I have deep respect for the garbage collectors, postal workers, plow drivers and others who are not sipping hot toddies from the comfort of their fainting couches while the blizzards rage outside. I also feel sorry for those families who’ve lost power or have to rearrange their lives every time school is cancelled.

My advice is to fill your flask and enjoy nature’s beautiful prank. It’s not like there’s anything we can do about it, anyway. If you’re fed up with this winter and can’t bear the thought of another snow storm, just remember: So long as your mom doesn’t crush your skull with her thighs at the behest of a nun, everything’s probably going to be OK.