Saturday Single No. 44

Originally posted December 1, 2007

A storm is coming. That’s what the forecasters have been telling us all week, and a look at the radar this morning confirms it: The Upper Midwest is gonna get whacked with some snow today. The forecast at weather.com says we should get somewhere between five to eight inches. I read yesterday, however, that a forecaster at the university here said that we could get from eight to ten inches.

Either way, it means that, come noon, we’re gonna all hunker down inside with a warm beverage and some snacks and wait the sucker out. The Texas Gal stopped at the local supermarket last evening on the way home from work and was competing for a parking space, she thinks, with half the population of St. Cloud’s East Side, all of them leaning into the wind and stocking up for the weekend. Her haul included some milk and cheese, potato chips, bread and Dr. Pepper from the grocery store and a twelve-pack of Kilian’s Irish Red – a pretty good beer – from the liquor store next door.

And in a little while, I’ll head out for a quick run over to the assisted living center in Sauk Rapids – adjacent to St. Cloud on the north – to see if my mother needs anything before the snow hits. She turns eighty-six today, and we’ve postponed celebration plans until next week. But she might need some groceries.

It’s not often that the first snow of the winter season is a big one. I don’t have any kind of records to check (although I’m sure they’re available online if I wanted to dig for them). The first snow that stays is generally one of those overnight dustings that leave about two inches or so, nothing too inconvenient. During my school days, it seemed that the first snow often came midway through a dreary day, and someone near the bank of windows would interrupt whatever it was we were doing with a “Look, everybody!”

We’d turn and see the first white flakes gliding down and settling on either the lawn in front of the school or the playground in back, depending on which side of the school our classroom was on. We’d rush to the window and watch for a few minutes, chattering a little, and then reluctantly make our ways back to our desks and resume our lessons in math or whatever it was that we’d been doing.

I recall only two years when the first snow of the season was substantial: In 1991, the series of storms now called the Halloween Blizzard dropped a total of twenty-eight inches of snow on the Twin Cities from Thursday, October 31, through Sunday, November 3. The beginning of the winter season in 1975 wasn’t quite as dramatic, in terms of the amount of snow – about six inches of snow fell early in Thanksgiving week – but it was more abrupt in terms of change.

There was something about the autumn of 1975 that was almost magical. I remember it as a season of near constant sunshine, with the greens of summer being replaced by bright gold as September and October wound on. I was in my fifth year of college and my degree was in sight; I was studying things I loved and was doing well at it; during the preceding summer and that fall, I spent time with a number of young women, and if I hadn’t yet found one with whom I might want to spend my life, there were at least some candidates to consider. My work for the Learning Resources Center that autumn paired me with my friend Murl as we tried to tie up the loose ends of the campus-wide inventory we’d started in late spring. And I spent much of my free time during weekdays at The Table in the student union, a haven of laughter and companionship. It was one of the sweetest seasons of my life.

(Others took place in the autumn of 1973 in Denmark; the summer of 1987, when it felt like I was beginning to truly live again for the first time in years; and the summer of 2001, when the Texas Gal and I began to merge our lives. Given that those three took place at intervals of fourteen years, perhaps 1975 was an anomaly and I should look forward to 2015.)

And that season ended abruptly. On one afternoon near the end of November, just before Thanksgiving, if I recall it correctly, I walked across campus in shirtsleeves. The temperature was in the seventies – as it had been for more than a week – and all across campus, students were sitting on benches, lying on the lawns, basking in the unseasonable warmth. Late that evening, the clouds blew in, and by sunrise, we had something like six inches of snow on the ground, and the gray months had begun.

I took a look at the Cash Box Top 100 for the fourth week of November 1975, and there are some interesting tunes on it. As good as that autumn had been to me, there are numerous songs that can take me back to that time and place, but time and place tunes are not always good ones. Still – and I shrug my shoulders as I write this – the chart shows how it was. And even though the No. 1 tune from the week before Thanksgiving that year was silly and simple, I find it brings back that time perfectly. And that’s why “Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention is this week’s Saturday Single.

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