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Pale-jointed knuckles grip the wheel. Squinting, trying to detect shapes of any kind beyond your windscreen. This rates as a full-bore white-out. Zero visibility. Now you’ve lost sight of those blurred red tail-lights that were up ahead. Pull over if you can.

Standing out in the blizzard’s altogether different. Sanity, repute, aren’t at risk or issue, despite frosted lashes and iced moustaches. No one will disrespect you. Nobody sneers or declares you don’t have enough sense to come in out of the snow.

In wintry midst, you’re truly dually aware. There’s heaviness and lightness of flakes, swirling and inventing pointillistic geometric patterns. They shift like flashy silver scales reflected by schools of migratory anchovies.

“Strange simile,” you muse, still frozen at center of the storm. “Wouldn’t make much sense if you’d only seen an anchovy on a slice of pizza or in a Caesar salad.”

“Who’s the real fish out of water?” you demand aloud, violating your initial and most critical self-enacted rule ( [1] “Don’t talk to yourself. What are you, crazy?”). You can be absent, with or without leave. There are questions pertaining to the past, inquiries that relate to the present day, which may stay unanswered in the future,

They say there are genuine memories, and then there are memories of memories. Beginning with the introduction of your recorded history, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish what you legitimately recall from stories told by others.

Assuming that’s so, how can you identify your earliest recollection? Was it really that sensation, at the ripe old age of 30 months or so: perched on an upholstered window seat in the front room of your Grandma’s home, soaking up the sun’s warmth and watching dust motes migrate through its rays? Or did someone tip you later to your Premature Tyndall Effect Fixation?

You'd prefer the version, of course, where you can determine the difference. There’s pedigreed, resonant, first-hand experience, which ought to outclass specious fragments of recycled lore. Through relentless recountings, the latter may have invaded apocrypha of your clan.

Some January dawns, you tuned in to a magic AM signal, the local station with the dial’s strongest wattage, and squirmed as the honey-voiced announcer recited entries from his list of schools that wouldn’t open. Hearing yours… there wasn’t any better feeling, Not an answered prayer, exactly, or a winning lottery number. More like landing on “Chance” or “Community Chest” in Monopoly, picking up a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Surely you recall such mornings, or the odd unsupervised evening. Pajama’d, you stayed up very late, because every family member stared enthralled at nuclear news or electoral returns on a giant fuzzy black-and-white TV.

Snow fell within bulbous confines of its screen, as well, distorted by thick, smoky glass. But that snow descended inexorably, moving with decisive value and weight.

These anecdotes — until today; for uncounted years — you’ve apprehended as unimpeachable and wholly real. Similarly, one afternoon allegedly found you cowering among forsythia branches after scoring an improbable direct hit on the blue-capped skull of a passing lawman, firing a clot of dusty dirt. Could have happened.

But how much do you possess of your own past? What claim can any player lay to unscripted, ham-fisted drama, beyond a credit line, confirmation one was fortunate enough to land a part?

It’s a slippery slope, nostalgia. If you prefer, it’s a muddy wallow lost in an arid land. A reminder why. The record shows you’ve engaged routinely in retelling of diverting childhood tales. Your daring parachute jump from the upstairs porch of Uncle Roger’s home on Stalling Avenue is a representative example.

You must admit, tribal oral fireside traditions notwithstanding, that ill-advised leap will never rank among the most riveting. Major elements: little kid; big umbrella; faulty judgment. Without some revisionist anecdotal brushstrokes, we’re seriously lacking adrenaline, beyond a turned ankle and parental chagrin. Those don’t sell papers.

Can we make the porch loftier by several meters, suggest the lad had developed an obsession with paratrooper movies, adopting the patois of an Airborne Ranger? Cast a little doubt on stability, in mind and body, of our foolhardy youth?

Yesterday’s snow’s become shop-worn overnight, gone grey, unprettily condensed.

Sooty clumps serve as shameful shadows of the drifts, which conveyed upon the landscape a soft-edged forgiveness.

Returning years later to the hallways of your junior high school, it figures the water-fountains would be ludicrously low. Oddly, the same asphyxiating, fetid scent rises from baseboards; carbon-rubber skids and scuffs mar every tile. Dread, an emotion to which you fiercely cling, is present, but dilute. You're wed to many memories of theoretically unsullied, eye-witness stripe. In one, the boys, itchy in matching, moldy, vintage woolens, commandeered cafeteria trays and swarmed over the closest hill. There was snow enough to smother smaller rocks and nearly all the dirt. They used the trays as primitive toboggans, screaming down the incline without rudder or regard.

Is that an offering, a sacrifice? There’s no question snow enjoyed mythic potency. It alone — besides parents and principals — had the power to allow you to stay home from school. Digging deeper, it was the one natural commodity left uncorrupted, not snagged like leaves or pebbles for class projects or the science fair.

Now, nothing, we recognize, is as it once appeared. How often do you hear about things getting better? So it oughtn’t come as a surprise that slipping standards overall should extend to precipitation. It’s something of a curiosity. Here’s a world where broken records are an everyday occurrence, from home runs to fastest miles to highest jumps. Drifting into meteorology, we only get vaguely melancholy recollections.

“You’ll never see a snowstorm like the one we had in *63,” or so they tell us.

That half-hearted lament squats sorrily beside obits for jazz clubs, movie theaters, valiant soldiers, honest politicians, cheap apartments, pterodactyls, decent mileage, perfect pizza. The character played by Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City summed it up, as he shambled along the warped Jersey boardwalk imparting wisdom to a younger man. “You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days,” he said, glancing seaward. “Now, that was an ocean.”

The kid in you remembers, stubbornly refuses to be cheated or denied. Plowed banks absolutely stood that high, not just on sidewalks but right up the middle of the 700 block of Stalling Avenue. Cars couldn’t get out, and if memory serves, there weren’t any attempts to shovel drives, paths, or front stoops. Populating an otherworldly Little Nemo stage set, children became worker bees and excavated tunnels. They redesigned the city’s grid and fashioned intricate, intersecting passageways, toiling in unfamiliar silence under the brilliance of harsh, intensified light.

How long did that delirious illusion hold sway? Well, there’s a chance it didn’t last a minute. In any case, one of our boys kept the notion with him, closeness of a tunnel’s roof and so much weight above it. He took a job a decade later in the mines. Carried the sense of sub-surface snow, used it like a cat-whisker assessment. It enabled him to execute the combat crawl.

Snow-caves, back then, held up fine. Underground, you might say our boy was lucky he wasn’t on the spot when the wrong wire got tripped or when freed boulders crashed down a drift, stopping for neither of the paralyzed, doomed hang-up men.

And as a consequence of not being pinned or pulverized or flattened, our boy was able in later and much calmer days to walk upon a truly lavish, opulent, prodigious amount of snow. In the dead of winter, along the serpentine spine of the Rockies, at 11,000 feet.

Our boy made his way atop a frozen upper crust, surmounting tons of flakes settled since October on the earth. His thoughts were far removed from battlements and castle-walls and _ Grandma Moses sculptures, school closings and unstable tunnels.

In the present, his teeth clenched with each step, because the sound of Vibram soles on congealed snow recalled so closely the tone his dentist produced when he pressed amalgam into a freshly-routed cavity.

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