Island ways emerge during Snowmageddon

As an island legend unfolded in real time, the storm brought out the mythic best of all of us.

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2019 1:53pm
  • Opinion
Kevin Joyce (File Photo).

Kevin Joyce (File Photo).

We need Snowmageddon ‘19 T-shirts — something, anything, to make it Vashon lore, that our grandchildren might sit at our feet in awe as the tales are retold again and again until they beg us to stop.

But we won’t, because we’ll be old and crotchety and won’t care, and they will learn from our vast wisdom, born of weather hardship.

We believed the weather alarmists this time. We hunkered into survivalist mode, clamored in a panic to gas stations, the 420 store and the supermarket — four times. We bought out canned goods, batteries and the entire chip aisle. Surrounded by provisions, candles and wrong-sized tire chains, we waited for the snow to begin, at exactly 1 p.m. on Friday. And then, like clockwork, it did.

So just how much do you like the people you live with? That became the question of the day, then the three-day weekend, then the week, then oh dear God, please keep me from chewing my paw off. Thank God for earbuds.

The first sign that something was officially, seriously up, was the notice #1 of school closure. There would be many, many more until it felt like school would never happen again, that classes would be extended until they just started again next year. We secretly pooled money and bribed the governor into declaring a State of Emergency. You’re welcome.

When we emerged next morning to 12 inches — 12, no really, Mom in Minneapolis, I’m not kidding! — our driveway was an impassable, winter wonderland prison: Beauty and the Beast meets Maleficent meets Frozen, in hell. “Why,” I screamed, illogically, to no one, “Why didn’t we own a snow plow? Why hadn’t we heated our quarter-mile driveway?”

We braved life-threatening tree limbs and embarked on a 3-mile, Little House on the Tundra trek to the in-laws, an unscheduled, freezing, two-hour, ButtBuster Aerobics class. It was on that journey that we met the fairytale characters in our Legend of Snowmaggedon.

(Note: to protect their identities, no real names will be used in this story. Any resemblance to actual persons on Vashon is unavoidable, and yes, that’s probably who you think it is.)

On the last mile of our expedition, a noise pierced the frigid, silent void… a chain saw?… no, oh for God’s sake, it’s snowmobiles. Normally, I’m admittedly judgey and elitist about them. But after expending 4,000 calories in sodden socks, I stood in sweating, exhausted wonder as they passed. The second rider gave me a slight upward nod of the chin gesture as if to say, “That’s right, I’m a bada##… and now you wish you’d had these in your barn for 20 years too. See ya, suckah!”

Next, we happened upon a svelte, cheery man on cross-country skis, who asked, in what sounded, in my delirium, like a Norwegian accent, “Have you-a seen a wolf-a wandering around-a?” We laughed, nervously, and trudged on. Plodding across the in-laws’ blanketed lawn, a 300 pound Malamute bounded out of the woods. “Oh yeah, baby!” he seemed to scream, and we screamed too. For reasons I will never fully understand, it felt like a good idea to let him into the in-laws’ house. More screaming.

Retracing our pre-made, knee-deep steps toward home, we were passed by no less than three vehicles out of Arctic Mad Max, inhabited by gnarly, pirate-like individuals, loaded with guns, shovels, chain saws and other tool-weapons. To a man, they had a crazed, I-haven’t-left-my-house-in-months-but-I-was-made-for-this-moment look in their eyes. We said, “Careful, there are five alders across the road up ahead.” They threw their heads back and laughed, and with mad twinkling eyes, fishtailed off to save the island. Vashon’s illusive bearded fairies emerge magically from the woods in our time of need.

A man with two four-letter names plowed our driveway, twice, with unflappable kindness and generosity, a character from a nobler time. Everyone we passed, either preparing or trudging, asked if we were OK. Curiosity, compassion and conviviality popped up everywhere, as Vashon slogged through its forced vacation. Disruptive? Absolutely. But it brought out the mythic best of all of us, and our grandchildren will endure the tales, with awe, wonder and popcorn.

— Kevin Joyce is a writer, humorist and father who lives on Vashon.

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