- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
And my dear, it ain't delightful
So as long as we've got places to go
Stop the snow, stop the snow, stop the snow.
My most humble apologies to those true snow troopers who revel in Punxsutawney Phil's predictions of six more weeks of slush and sleet, but most of us Washingtonian wimps are winter-weary. Count me among the seasonal distress disorder sufferers. We're the folks who freeze after the first snowflake. The sun-deprived souls who look like flashlights burning on one battery. Two bouts of fighting the flu haven't help my susceptible, shivering spirit either.
I heard somebody shout, "Enough already," and when I peeped outside my frosted windows, I saw a big kid mine. I couldn't believe my ears.
My nature-loving son has been snow-crazed since being bundled up in a dark green snowsuit as a toddler. And for weeks now, he was downright giddy about our unusually wet winter, happily singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside."
Now, I couldn't believe my eyes, either. He'd rummaged through my closet and was blanketed from head to toe. Usually, I skate on thin ice when nagging him about wearing a coat, much less gloves or, heaven forbid, a hat in freezing temperatures.
My 83-year-old neighbor, retired Army Sgt. Lee "Sarge" Young, is another one of those winter warriors. He's hardly in a hurry for this snowy season to end. "What a blessing, I love it, this snow and cold weather, amen," says Sarge. "It's so pretty, I just have to go out in it and touch it and open my mouth and let the snow drop in it."
During World War II, Sarge was stationed in the Arctic, where "they tested black troops" who were to trek through Russia to Germany. They lived in tents for more than a year among Eskimos, who "taught us how to live in the cold." They bathed in snow. Brrrrrrrrrr. "You know if you stay in the cold, you won't catch a cold; it's being inside in the heat that'll make you sick, amen," Sarge informs me.
Sarge, a virtual Farmer's Almanac who also is a professional horticulturist, is better than the Doppler radar at predicting the weather. I seek him out before I check the Weather Channel. Sarge is well aware of my winter blues and snowphobia and always attempts to allay my trepidation.
"Bless your heart, don't worry, it's going to start to clear up and spring is going to be breaking," Sarge said yesterday. "I just feel it, glory be."
"Well, we'll get a little dab here and there but just enough to wake us up. It'll be enjoyable, amen," he assures me.
Nice try. You know this long winter has gotten pretty bad when you watch the world-has-come-to-an-end television snow shows, and even school children bemoan, "not another snow day." Of course, even I wonder why it only takes a threat of a teaspoon of the white stuff for school officials to call an all-day timeout.
Not to worry. Life's lessons come from dark clouds, too.
Even in their youthful experience, area students have come to understand that everything has a price; that all things come down to a choice, a trade-off sooner or later.
In this case, it's lay today, pay tomorrow.
Isn't it funny that no matter when the bill is due, it comes at the most inconvenient time. Like summer, when visions of snow cones dance only in the head. I wish that more adults could grasp as easily as children appear to the concept that instant gratification has certain consequences. Anyone who pulled a snow job on the Washington Teachers' Union, for example, come to mind? Payback is like a blinding blizzard. I wonder how local governments, now buried under an avalanche of unanticipated snow-removal bills, dig out? Take the taxpayers for a scary sleigh ride?
Actually, we've been fortunate enough not to have had a blizzard like the one that shut down the nation's capital in 1996 yet. Count another blessing.
The National Weather Service rattles off numbers and shows charts that indicate that Washington has experienced worse winters. So much for statistics when you're shivering.
"This has been like old-time weather," Sarge said.
Maybe we've gotten spoiled with mild winters in recent years. Focused on our own discomfort, we sometimes overlook our neighbor's bad fortune. After all, the District officially has registered at least one hypothermia death this winter. The hope is that we learn as much from our troubles as we do from our triumphs.
Will we be ever so grateful for this wild, wet winter of 2003 when we once again swelter in the summer heat but there is water in the wells? Who can hardly wait to witness what winter's icy soil soaking will bear when rose bushes that now look barren once again bare their beauty? Count more blessings.
"This [winter] weather's prosperous, good for the ground," Sarge says. "We'll have a glorious, green spring, yes Lord, and get back to normal. Amen."
Words to warm a winter-weary heart.

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