By: Gracie K. Harold
Trigger Word Warning: snow, blended family, blizzard.
Michigan is to snow and cold as the desert is to sand and sunshine. Some of my earliest memories involve this reality. My younger brother was born in one of the worst blizzards in Michigan history. I distinctly remember staying at my aunt’s house, and how she pulled my cousins and me on a sled. She bundled us up, led us up the narrow pathway of their freshly-shoveled driveway; and placed the sled up on the snowbank. The remarkable thing was that we were up higher than her head (she’s 5’7”), and we were looking down onto the tops of mailboxes and the roofs of cars. She led us up and down their street, and we received a front row seat to all of the neighbors’ snow removal efforts. It was like a cartoon; watching people throw the snow up over their heads as it arced over onto the ever-growing snow hills.
My birthday always falls close to Easter, and I distinctly remember the eve of my fourth birthday. For weeks, when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday, I would answer, “snow.” Up to this point, Michigan had experienced a rather mild spring; which explains why my mom and dad kept shaking their heads at each other incredulously; unsure how to answer my request. Finally, my mom said, “Honey, you can pray about it; but you need to remember that it’s springtime in Michigan…the snow may be gone for now.” So, I dutifully prayed before bedtime, asking God to “Please, please make it snow on my birthday.” I awoke early the next morning, ran to my window, and looked out on a pristine blanket of snow shining in the first light of the sunrise.
I ran out of my room yelling, “It snowed! It snowed! God gave me a birthday present!” My poor dad! He had to leave for work, and I remember him saying, “You’re the one who asked for this, huh?” as he winked at me and put on his snow clothes. I spent quite some time making snow angels and sledding and playing contentedly in the snow that day.
For a few years until the current season, our winters have been unusually mild. Last year in particular was extremely atypical. One of our boys refers to it as “The year of the green Christmas…instead of the White Christmas”. I was in a local store this last month, and a man began discussing how much he enjoyed riding his bicycle. I expressed that my family and I enjoy the hobby; and also told him that I had seen a few diehard bicyclists out in the subzero temperatures. I giggled a little bit as I mentioned that I didn’t dare try to ride until I was positive all of the ice was gone; since I am rather accident-prone as it is. He proceeded to tell me that they actually make wide snow tires now for bikes. This launched him into a mini-tirade about his frustrations about not being able to ride his bike in the wintertime. “Last year I was out every single week on my bicycle. Now, I don’t think I’ve had it out once since November. This is absolutely ridiculous! I can’t believe the weather we are having!”
He left, and I was incredulous that he was so upset about the weather when he knows full well that he resides in MICHIGAN! It’s not like winter weather is an anomaly in the lakeshore region; yet here he was complaining about the cold and snow. James and I were discussing it later when it struck me what had happened. “Oh! He expects the exception to be the new normal. The warm weather we experienced was the exception, and not the everyday common experience.” James just looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
I blushed a bit, grinned, and said, “I know, love; I get it. You and I tend to mentally reside in the past of our former relationships, and then we react out of those as if they were our new “normal”. Instead, though, we need to realize that our past was the exception. This is a new thing. THIS is our new “normal”. The old stuff that happened to us is not happening to us now.”
We’ve both been striving in the last few weeks to “live in the new normal”, and to move on from the exceptions. We’ve decided to learn from the pain of our past, hope for our new future together, and live in the moment of our new relationship.
I love being at home in the new normal…no more “across the street from normal”; instead, I’m moving in. It feels like home.
It is home.