Best Halloween Blizzard of 1991,
It’s now the winter of 2021. I’m 30 years away from you, but the decades of time between us can not dull the incredible power of you. I was 10 years old when you visited. I am now almost 41, older than my mother was in 1991.
Every year, when the first snowstorm comes to Minnesota, I bring you up. I speak of you with my three children as one of the most amazing natural experiences of my life.
This is what I tell them:
“It was Halloween night. My sister and I were tricking or treating. Our dad stayed in the car and followed us slowly through the evening into the darkness of the night. We were still new to America then, because we had only been in the country for four years. We were refugees and we were poor. We did not have money for the flashy superhero costumes or the traditional goblins and ghouls of our friends. We wore our usual clothes. On our faces we had cheap plastic masks. My sister’s may have been a clown. I was a brown bear with a red snare on the side. As we ran from house to house, I dimmed my bear mask with my breath. In the slit of my bear’s eyes I looked at the street lamps to show the way. Beneath their orange glow I saw the white snowflakes flying.
“The ticking of my heart became a clock that I knew we were racing against, while the flakes pulled together and smoothed the paths under our sneaker feet. Yet, guided by the spirit of Halloween, my sister and I ran from the house of one neighbor to the next. As the plastic bags in our hands became heavier and heavier, the wind picked up and a cold shiver swept through us and made us shiver. We fought against the cold for as long as we could. When our hands became paralyzed, we ran to our father and the hot car.
“That night, before I climbed into bed and under the blankets, I stood at the window and looked outside. I saw that a thick blanket of snow had already covered the ground. The pumpkins on the porches of neighbors and friends were buried under the white. I prayed for more snow to fall.
“I wanted the snow to fall until it covered all the dirty places in our city. I wanted the snow to wipe out everything I know so I could imagine everything new. I wanted schools to be canceled. Workplaces to close so Mum and Dad do not have to get up early. I wanted everything to stop – just for a while.
“I fell asleep and dreamed of a world covered with white softness, a world where sound was muted, where families could only play in the beauty of freshly fallen snow.
“The next morning I got exactly what I wanted. I woke up. I looked outside. I screamed in excitement. The snow was halfway against our window. I woke up my sister. We ran into the kitchen. Mom and Dad were at the front door and then the back door was getting them open. They could not. We were locked up by snow. The snow almost as high as I was long!
“My father said, ‘If you can fix it quickly, if Mom and I can open one of these doors, you can go outside with me.’
“I wore shorts. I put on several shirts. I grabbed my jacket. I zipped it up. I grabbed my gloves, and I was ready. I was like a soccer player waiting to hit a game. My feet could not keep still.
“My parents could not open the front door, but Dad had an idea for the back door. He opened the kitchen window. He pushes the screen out. He climbs up and over the windowsill. From outside the house he dug open the door with an old spade.
“Dad said I should follow him. He made steps in the snow – big, giant steps – by lifting his legs as high as they could go over the drift white. We could not see stairs or ridges, bushes or cars. Everything was covered. The wind was blowing so there was heaps of snow higher than me. At points I sank and sank to my chest in snow.
“The only sound I made was that of amazement: parted lips, laughter and awe that washed over the quiet expanse of everything. The whole block was empty. The trees sank under the weight of the snow. In the street, on the sidewalk, on the lawns of neighbors, it does not matter where we step.
“The world around us has changed. On Halloween night, I went to bed thinking that I would wake up with a world within the fluid confines of a snowball. I had no way of thinking what was in front of me: snow drifts, climbing against roofs of houses. There was more snow on the ground than I have ever seen in my life, and it was simply wonderful. ”
Every time I tell the story, my kids open their mouths in amazement. Their eyes widen. They put their hands right under their chins and wished out loud, “I want it to be like this again, Mom.”
Through my stories, they live with me in the wake of your 1991 Blizzard.
Through my children’s eyes, they do not know that within 24 hours 28 inches of snow fell on these cities. They do not know that no less than three men died of heart attacks that kicked their way out of the snow. They do not know that there were people all over the cities who lost their fingers to the hungry jaws of the snowflakes in the snowplows, some had it fastened again while others lost it forever. They do not know that the Twin Cities spent about $ 700,000 to clear the snow that fell from roads so that the 1,700 schools and businesses in the city could work. They just know what I knew then.
They only know that one Hmong girl made a wish one dark Halloween night, and woke up in the morning that her wish had come true. They only know that the reality of a wish often transcends the imagination and knowledge of its wisher.
Blizzard from 1991, you were past everything I knew could happen. You taught me that anything is possible in the hands of nature. If I am an old woman, the memory of you will make me feel still young in the world.