January 26, 2015
“You guys OK?” I ask my summer landlord in Scituate Massachusetts. After watching the news, my skin was crawling in several different directions in the mild Miami wind.
“Oh ya,” she puffs across the miles. “I just got home from the grocery store.”
Always need snacks before a big weather event.
“So, are you guys gonna…..?”
Never say the word “evacuate.”
“Ya. No.” She answers with no hesitation.
“Gotcha. Well keep in touch and stay safe.”
I have to admit I have been feeling poorly – as we say down South – all day. Maybe it’s the semi-cold that so many on my crew are staving off. It never really materializes but everyone complains about being achy all the same.
But it’s much more, I think. The impending storm, the Blizzard of 2015, is working my last good nerve despite the fact that I am no longer a resident of that far away place where the state motto/insult/salutation is “Awww, go fuck yaself!”
I spent many happy summers on the Irish Riviera, as you Gentle Readers know. You’ve ingested thousands of words on the subject. And thirty-seven years ago, my grandfather slid into the ocean and was lost during the Blizzard of ’78.
We New Englanders capitalize all major weather occurrences as well as things we feel are important, such as “What’s The Traffic Pattern Over By The Star Market” and “Let Me Tell You How Much The Neighbors Drink.” Sometimes traditional grammar rules do not adequately fit Our Needs.
In my head I have secretly named the storm today as “Don’t Let This Be The One.”
Author’s note: Let me begin with a paragraph for any Non-Gentle Readers. Of course my main concern is for human life. And dog life. Cat life – I’m not a fan because unlike me, those felines always land on their feet. I still wish them well. This entry is about another subject, but I thought I’d just add a little disclaimer lest anyone think I am (more) callous (than usual).
“Don’t Let This Be The One.” That’s what I have named the massive storm barreling toward New England.
January 26, 2015 Late Night
I can’t sleep. I have a sore throat. It’s too hot or cold in my room. I toss and twist around for dramatic effect but since I am alone, the effort seems wasted. I am getting sick. I’m mad!
“Here’s the thing,” my dead grandfather suddenly barks from the darkness, “ya fulla shit.”
He yells so loud I almost pee the bed. And considering he is a figment of my imagination, that’s pretty damn loud.
Before I can answer, my grandmother chimes in. “What is it with you Greeks anyway? You people have two emotions. Either you’re on a mountain running around naked and cheering or you’re burning your house down.”
The Irish never let you forget if you do not come from two Irish parents. Anything that may be wrong or suspect about you must be blamed on the other half of your family. I’m used to it. Important to note, however, that I have never ever been naked and cheering on any mountain and I have long since given up playing with matches but to comment would just make things worse.
“Here’s the thing, kid, that thing botherin’ ya,” Poppy’s disembodied voice lectures. “It’s the storm comin’. You feel it and it’s makin’ ya sick. Ya. Here it comes again.”
Nana isn’t having it. “I’m sick to death of that storm, Eddie. That’s all we’ve talked about for decades. You drowned. Eventually I died…”
“Not without pickin’ up another husband on the way out,” he injects.
She snaps right back. “So I should have spent the rest of my life alone?”
I definitely cannot do this tonight. ”Guys! I’m not even thinking about the weather, except for Sissy. Anyway, the news says it will hit New York.”
Poppy grunts. “Ya. New York always brags about their bad weathah! Like they got somethin’ on us! WE OWN bad weathah!”
“Ya true. Go to NBC,” Nana insists. “They always had the best anchors. You could trust those two – Huntley and Brinkley. ‘Course Cronkite was good too. And watch the TV to see if the watah gets dirty. That’s a sure sign!”
Poppy hums that old Standells’ tune. Love that dirty watah.
“Ya,” he says. “It’s pretty damn dirty watah when you end up floating in it after a storm.”
Nana is furious. “You had to bring that up again, didn’t ya?”
My grandfather ignores her and whispers to me. “It’s Scituate. It’s headed toward Scituate.”
I grope around in the dark for my cell phone and scroll through the news feeds. New York City transit is shutting down. Road closures! Seven thousand flights canceled! Twenty-four inches of snow will hit the Big Apple! Panic in the city of disco! Scroll, scroll,, scroll!
And then…only NBC projects areas hardest to be hit will be around Boston, around Providence, Rhode Island, and along the eastern half of Long Island.
“Don’t Let This Be The One!” I think I hear myself speak.
My alarm goes off. It’s morning.
January 27, 2015 Early Morning
Dear CNN, can I just mention that I find it highly offensive that you are showing New York City on a loop after exclaiming they’ve dodged a bullet while the blizzard barrels toward Long Island, the Jersey Shore and Massachusetts? I am watching the Mayor of NY, a seemingly nice fellow, drinking hot cocoa with you as he says, “I feel horrible for Boston.” No doubt he does. So how about showing it? You suck today.
Dear MSNBC, I can only sigh. Seriously, whatever you are medicating with over there must be adjusted. Either half it or double it because your current dosage is way off.. Then start spreadin’ the news. The real weather news I mean, not the news that has already not happened that you keep talkin’ about anyway.
Dear Vanity Fair, I love you dearly. I want to thank you for your email headed “The Blizzard That Wasn’t” but I will not. I am relieved the blizzard left New York City with only piles of snow. However, I find you completely ridiculous in the headline-creation department and geographically challenged in tracking weather that will surely cripple other locations. Shape up or stick to what you do best. Be glossy! And check out a little coastal town called Scituate.
Dear NBC, my dead grandmother was right! You guys ahh wicked smahht!
Despite the fact that I leave the house late and traffic is horrible, I make it to work on time. A personal best in my crisis news reporting.
Calm Sissy reports in from her perch just above Boston. They’re snowed in but safe with snacks and power. Over in Stow, my hilarious brother-in-law jokingly posts that on day one of the blizzard, they may have to eat the children. So I know they’re also fine. Rosie’s sister Claire has stocked up on her favorite storm support – ice cream – and hunkered down in New Hampshire. The storm pushes on, looking for a place to park for a while.
It finds the spot. Sometime during the day, the Atlantic Ocean breaches the seawalls in Scituate and neighboring Marshfield. The ocean comes rushing in.
January 27, 2015 Late Evening
I have tremendous empathy for folks who reside in areas prone to specialized weather. Florida hurricanes make my blood run cold in one hundred degree temperatures. California earthquakes are terrifying and unpredictable. Everyone fears The Big One – of whatever their One happens to be.
But the dreaded Nor’easters up North? I live in secret fear every winter that my childhood could be wiped away by that Big One.
I have a television with a cable hook-up in my office as is my custom. It’s always on mute and always scrolling the news of the planet. Today was a challenging day on the job, but still I was able to keep up with the storm’s progress. I don’t get paid to watch television, nor do I. If there was ever a day I wished I wasn’t working – it was today. Had I been home, I would have sat all day in front of that talky-box. I did, however, get to follow the scrolls and muted chattering news-heads captions that kept saying New York. I ignored them. I knew where it was going and what it may do. My fear, my biggest fear after praying for the safety of life in the path of destruction, was that my View-Master would be not be spared.
If any readers are old enough to recognize the word “View-Master” then I am grateful to still be somewhat current. For younger folks, a View-Master is a (usually) red plastic toy contraption that looks like binoculars that aliens from a 1950′s science fiction movie would hold up to their eyes to see inside humans.
Invented by in 1938 by a pharmacist who did photo-finishing on the side and his pal – an organ maker – the View-Master holds changeable flat cardboard circles that house different mini photography slides. When I was a kid, you could buy a “reel” of Batman’s adventures or scenes from the Grand Canyon. You just shoved the cardboard into the slot, held the toy up to the light, peered into the ‘Master and clicked the shutter.
Trust me, it was – and still is – the coolest thing ever. I’ve introduced every kid in the family to the joy of this non-mechanical device as the years have gone by and even now you can purchase the View-Master. Of course it has been upgraded with reels that highlight current action heroes and Hello Kitty and comes in a rainbow of colors. And it is generally referred to as Viewmaster because people these days just don’t appreciate a nice hyphen.
I firmly believe the reason the View-Master sustains itself in a world gone mad with technology is because every time you raise it up and stare into it – everything is exactly the same as the last time. It’s comforting to know there are no alternative endings, no edits, no upgrades, no changes. It has no soundtrack, no mood music to encourage you to feel a certain way. The View-Master is what it is. Every damn time.
Because sometimes that’s what you need to keep going.
Scituate is my View-Master. I go back every summer, year after year. It may seem as if I am an aging high school quarterback hoping to relive those perfect-season glory days preserved by hazy memory and the passage of time. And perhaps I am, but more than that, I return because Scituate doesn’t change.
It always smells the same when you pass the crest of the hill and drive into the harbor. It always sounds the same when you cruise past Tedesco’s Package Store and guys pass each other going in and out. “New” (pre 1970) businesses like T.J. O’Malley’s are now firmly ensconced on Front Street and accepted by my high standards of what should be on Front Street. The faces are the same – cheerfully defiant and fiercely protective of all that is Scituate.
The movie theater where I saw Jaws. Cole Parkway that corrals the annual Heritage Days celebration and carnival. Maria’s Subs. And The Point that leads to the lighthouse – my hood of kidhood. The very spot where young Abigail and Rebecca Bates single-handedly scared a British warship away from the harbor by masquerading as an entire militia by beating a tune out of a fife and a drum in 1814. And everything else in my small battered box of personal View-Master reels that I can pull out and see the memories that brought me to the present.
We are who we are because of where we came from and the people that still live in those tiny cardboard slides we hold dear.
The generation of the tough, mouthy, stubborn Irish that came before me are gone. Yaya Molly, Poppy, Nana and Mom. I was born in Worcester – a city that suffered surpassing their all time record for snowfall today. I still love Worcester and have many good memories of living with Mom and Sissy in that little duplex on St. Nicholas Ave. Yet, my reels are almost all of Scituate.
Once a year I go back to my real life View-Master and walk the town where we were – for a while – all together in the very same house. It is a unique reel because I was a kid and when you are a kid running wild in a tiny seaside town – you’re always happy.
I’m sure if I look hard enough through the reel box, I’ll see a few spaces that once held cardboard circles of family brawls and dark days, but I’ve long since discarded them. My one perfect thing is Scituate and like every good part-Irish woman, I refuse to rewrite history…but I don’t mind ignoring a bit of it. My summer vacation is a quick infusion of that history and of who I really am. A survivor. We don’t give in. We don’t give up.
And we never go down without a fight.
I need to be reminded every so often.
And so, every winter I begin to wince. My skin crawls a bit. I watch the weather reports from fifteen hundred miles away as closely as a hurricane watch hovering over Miami during any given summer day.
During the years when I begin to hear phrases like “epic storm” and “historical event” I whisper to myself, “Don’t Let This Be The One!”
Don’t let this be the one that crashes past the seawall on Rebecca Road and crushes my View-Master into a million little pieces too small to be glued back together again.
My Florida friends often post about the joys of the endless sun and warm sand as the grey cold sets in over New England. They post fun photos of bikinis and flip flops and joke about how we don’t have to shovel snow. I can’t.
My View-Master would feel betrayed. I’m nothing if not loyal.
I’m a product of a stubborn place that absolutely refuses to allow its destruction. As long as it stands strong and defiant against the elements, so will I. So please, don’t let this be the one.
My grandfather, that old Scituate townie, grunts from the afterlife.
“This? This heah? This 2015 thing ain’t nuthin’! There’s gonna be damage. There’s gonna be destruction. But we survived worse. And don’t be sayin’ there is any One that’s gonna be The One. This is Scituate, for chrissakes! Go Pats!”
This is not the time to remind him that he himself did not survive worse in that Blizzard of ’78. Because I know what he means.
Scituate still stands.
Another author’s note: At the time of this writing, the deaths, damages and injuries resulting from the events of today have yet to be tallied. My prayers tonight are with everyone everywhere touched by the cold random hand of the storm.