Winter in North Carolina has been strange this year. The days have been mostly warm. A few recent cold snaps are a reminder of the season and we even had a bit of snow. I like snow.
People in the south say it’s bad for your health when weather is funny like it is; one day like springtime and the next biting cold. I didn’t believe this as a child or even in early adulthood, but the older I get, the more truth and wisdom I find in the things my parents and grandparents said.
Our first snow of the season came only a day after our beloved dog, our friend and companion, passed on.
I was glad when the snow started to fall. I wanted the ground where the grave-site is to harden. I wanted it safe from predators.
I had also been wishing for snow, as I do every Winter.
I called it Tiny’s snow. I immediately felt a connection to his spirit.
Perhaps it was the closeness I felt that prompted me to take part in the bread-buying ritual that happens in the south when we get, “weather.” I’m not much on shopping, but I found myself enjoying the anticipation and excitement going on at the local grocery store.
For some reason, I wanted and even felt that I needed, an onion. I didn’t have plans as to how I would use it, but I sure wanted one. Plus, bread is never on the top of my list of things I need in snow. Wood for a fire is usually a first thought.
Onions are normally abundant at the grocery store, but strangely, there were only a few onions in the bin and they were larger than the size I wanted. I walked to the other bins. A woman was rapidly filling her bag with the smaller ones. I felt sure she intended on taking every single onion.
“Pardon me,” I said politely as I approached the bin. The woman was friendly.
“What is it with onions?” she remarked with curiosity. “There’s only a few left. Everyone is buying onions.”
Her remark made me sure that I needed an onion.
“Happy is said to be the family which can eat onions together. They are, for the time being, separate, from the world, and have a harmony of aspiration.”
Charles Dudley Warner, ‘My Summer in a Garden’ (1871)
“Well, more weather is on the way,” my mother called to report several days after the first snow. She’s my personal Weatherwoman.
“Sometimes,” she continued, “They (weather reporters) know about as much as we do. I remember when they said we might get five or six inches and we got (she always emphasizes the inches), twenty-four!”
I knew what she was going to say next, which comforted me in a way.
She started talking about the time she and my late grandmother, along with my aunt and uncle, huddled together for more than a week without power.
Twenty-four inches really is a lot of snow for the southeastern United States.
Mother tells about the soup they warmed over a burning candle and how they all went to bed, “with the chickens,” since they didn’t have lights to turn on.
There’s something about the way it feels when she recalls the little things that happened that week, and she remembers them in great detail. I feel a bond of belonging and togetherness in her story. They needed each other and I think, they must have surely experienced their likenesses above and beyond any differences.
There was something about having one of the wanted onions that sparked in me a sense of belonging. I wondered what other people might be cooking with their onion.
The next day my son sautéed the onion to go with eggs. Our home was warmed by the sweet smell.
Later that evening, I heard the roar of Thunder Beings. How odd, I thought, to hear thunder just before snow. I called my Weatherwoman.
“They say it’s Thundersnow,” she reported. “It’s very rare.”