Oniontown Pastoral: Report on Erie’s Christmas Blizzard
As anybody with a television knows, Erie, Pennsylvania, has made the national news in recent days. Apparently, the sentimental souls who asked God for a winter wonderland on December 25th earned a pray-one, get-one-free coupon. The National Weather Service promises that Erie County can count on 12-18 inches of snow in addition to the 60+ we have already.
Of course, fans of Christmas flurries didn’t say to the Lord, “Thank you, sir, may we have another.” I bear no grudges.
Nor am I complaining. The YMCAs in Erie closed, so I was spared the effort of getting on the treadmill and starting to sweat off my holiday lard.
I’ve had the walk shoveled, but we still haven’t received mail in three days. As a result, we haven’t opened up a bill since December 23rd, which is a victory. The longer money stays in my wallet the better.
The only part of my 2006 Hyundai Elantra visible now is the antenna, but wife Kathy’s new Kia Forte is getting us around great. In typical Coleman fashion, I had studded tires put on two days after the worst of the squalls, but we never did get stuck.
Actually, far from being put upon, me, mine and my hometown have cause to give thanks. Severe weather presents logistical hassles, but a festive spirit tags along with a blizzard’s wind chills.
We Americans are trapped in an age of cruel, shabby behavior that has put millions in a stupor. We’re tired of being aghast and offended at every turn. Our alarm and worry has morphed into a weary nausea. But relentless snow is a variation in the routine. Marching into blinding swirls and getting a thousand tiny, frigid slaps in the face reminds human beings that life has a diverse, engaging menu.
A blizzard is the meteorological equivalent of devouring an ox roast sandwich with a snappy horseradish mayo and a tidal wave of jus after living for a year on bargain baloney between stale white bread, no ketchup, no mustard, no milk.
Brief case study: I’m writing this report at Starbucks, where minutes ago a middle-aged husband and wife danced to the 1976 Abba hit, “Dancing Queen.” (Note: patrons don’t dance at Starbucks.) Their teenage daughter and son were mortified.
The woman had groovy moves. The guy, who had a shaved head and soul patch, was no slouch. Suddenly, by impulse alone, I joined them.
“You kids should get up and move,” I said. “When you get old you’ll wish you had.”
The boy pulled his stocking cap down over his nose and slumped in his chair. We three oldsters laughed from our bellies.
Now tell me, when but during a historic snow event would a rhythmically challenged clergyman find the mojo to dance in Starbucks? Something primal simply gets released in a fellow.
Erie-ites will be waxing about the Christmas Blizzard of 2017 for decades. Even now we’re basking in the sympathy of a nation.
I’m already having a grand time telling out-of-town friends about our poor streets. Unlucky drivers get stuck and spin like mad until they fishtail away, leaving behind ruts. Wherever you go, you’re in for a rough ride that feels like Charles Atlas has seized you by the lapels and shaken you wildly.
The day after Christmas took me to my beloved Oniontown, where the roads were clear and the driving non-violent. On the way, I stopped at the hospital in Greenville to see Rosellen, who was nearing the end, and her kind, gentle husband Dale. We prayed, and I got to say, “I’ll see you soon. Love you. I’m going to miss you.”
Rosellen could double me over by raising an eyebrow or shaking her fist at me. Never do the fields near St. John’s Lutheran Church look bleak, but they did on December 26th. A helping of Erie’s snow might have dressed them up. Or maybe I was sad about telling a friend goodbye.
The next morning, I learned that Rosellen passed. Am I askew in believing that her steps are now steady, her memory clear and sure? Am I strange to grieve her death and be excited for her in the same breath? And am I crazy to find joy in foul weather?
Yes. Crazy enough to dance—in celebration of a blizzard and in gratitude for Rosellen made whole again and embraced by Eternal Love.