Last year ( actually a few posts ago ) I was bemoaning the brisk breezes off the water but hoping for a little snow. Ha ! As my father often said, be careful what you wish for because your wish might come true. And did it come true, in spades. On Christmas Eve Day, Don Slater, my favorite weatherman at WAVY tv 10 in Norfolk, Virginia was forecasting that the whole East Coast was in for a whopper, that instead of blowing out to sea as previously thought, the storm would be blanketing most of North Carolina with up to 6-8 inches and would then work its way towards us, bringing 4 inches, maybe more. Although I was already re-thinking my little wish, I’m sure many a child here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore was gazing out the window, thinking WOW, bring it on ! ( And at our house, definitely our two Newfies, Pumpkin and Honey, had visions of snowflakes dancing through their heads. )
The snow actually started just as we were sitting down to dinner on Christmas Day. It had already been a long but exciting day, starting with the arrival of Group One consisting of two “big kids”, two little kids and two brand new puppies for brunch ( everybody had a wonderful time, the puppies were adorable ), moved on to phone calls to those far away, a visit from those having dinner elsewhere, then on to Group Two for dinner. Actually, at our house, Christmas dinner is always a simple affair, unlike Thanksgiving where my eldest daughter thinks dinner isn’t complete without at least six or seven different side dishes, including the always mandatory homemade mac and cheese and collard greens ( I’m not originally from the South but have taken well to the Southern notion that collards, cooked with a little bit of country ham for seasoning, are a “must” on Thanksgiving ). Offerings of pecan pie, pumpkin pie and possibly coconut cake tempt one from the dessert table. The Christmas menu in contrast is quite simple and always the same– roast beef, twice-baked potatoes, a green veggie, a big green salad, cheesecake and pecan pie for dessert. Potatoes and pies made ahead, salad greens washed, spun dry and popped into Tupperware ahead, mushrooms for the peas or green beans all sauteed, everything tucked into the refrigerator, the cheesecake courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory, my world- famous, well, family-famous, port wine gravy started a day ahead so flavors can marry overnight— absolutely no cooking to do on The Day, just pop the roast into the oven and finish the gravy. But back to the snow, which started just as we were getting settled into dinner.
I flipped on the outside lights so everyone could enjoy the sight of big, fat flakes slowly drifting down— they were indeed big fat flakes but they were not slowly drifting, they were pretty much twirling and swirling at a pretty rapid rate, giving me my first clue that Slater’s forecast might be right on the mark. It was a beautiful sight though, large white flakes set against the night sky. Snow is a rarity on the southern tip of the Virginia Eastern Shore– usually if it snows nearby, it just rains here because of the moderating influence of having the Chesapeake Bay as our western border and the Atlantic Ocean as our eastern border– it just doesn’t get cold enough. But not Christmas night– it was cold, it was snowing, it was sticking ! I think it is hard for people from areas where lots of snow is simply routine to fathom how on earth a few inches of snow can snarl up an entire region. But if you seldom have snow then you seldom have snow tires, snow chains are unheard of and you have no practice driving over snow and ice. And your municipality has very little snow removal equipment. So trust me when I say that 4 inches of snow here closes schools, offices and the county– it’s an official Snow Day, break out the hot chocolate and marshmallows ! So if you’re still braving winters in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and other icy places but are considering real estate on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, relax, take heart, usually it warms up right away, within a day things are generally back to normal.
But not this time– according to official reports, this was our biggest snow in nearly a quarter of a century and it was the 7th largest snow on record in Norfolk ! As everyone was saying their goodnights on Christmas it was snowing hard and by the time we woke up on the 26th it was just about a white-out. The Newfies were so excited, they dashed out, practically did summersaults in the snow, raced around wildly, then plopped down in a little drift, just chilling out ! Dawn on the 27th brought bright pink skies over a thick blanket of dry white flakes. By the end of that storm Cape Charles, Virginia had officially had about 7-8 inches of the cold white stuff and it was pretty clear that it wasn’t going to disappear overnight. However, I was prepared to relax and just enjoy it– office closed, new Christmas book at my elbow ( autobiography of Mark Twain) —- let it snow, let it snow. let it snow ! ( Of course the forecast of 50 + degrees for Thursday was very comforting ! ) And when I saw the snow totals from New York City (23 inches) and parts of New Jersey (26 inches) and Cape Cod– well, let’s just say that I felt pretty doggone lucky to be here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where our mere 7-8 inches was one for the record books. But I will be a bit more careful next time about wishing for snow— because we might actually get some !