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The Column: Nostalgic for snowfall on Long Island

No snow.

Or, more to the point: No snow?

At ease.

You have not wandered into a climate-change symposium and it is true, anyway, that one weather “event” — or nonevent — proves little, but you have to admit this is weird.

Long Island bears no resemblance to Fargo, North Dakota, and most years we don’t get socked too badly. Still, a snowless winter — that’s something.

It almost makes me nostalgic for icy mornings when I’m digging a path from the front door to mailbox, hoping with each heavy lift that this is not the time I invite oblivion.

Suicidal? No. Control freak? OK, you got me.

If there’s a nor’easter, or anything close, we get help from a pal, Carlos, and Mark, our good-hearted neighbor up the hill, who arrives, snowblower snorting, but I’m always out there, anyway, getting a start on things and supervising.

“Remember the steps next to the retaining wall, Carlos.”

Carlos nods and flashes his pleasant smile, but I know he’s thinking: I never forget the retaining wall.

“A little more to the right at the driveway, Mark, please. Want to make sure I can back in.”

Mark guns the engine.

At those moments, I think of my father, Fred Sr., and boyhood Brooklyn winters.

We lived in a little six-family apartment house owned by my grandmother. Dad delivered Bond Bread until late afternoon. Dutiful son, he began his shift as Nana’s maintenance man upon arriving home.

When it snowed, Fred shoveled — no Carlos, no Mark and surely no contraption doing the work of several Dads in one swipe.

“Your father hates snow,” Mom would say when, three floors up, we heard the metallic scrape of shovel on sidewalk. Even in the fabled blizzard of ’47, Dad didn’t leave a flake behind. “Do anything, do it right,” he liked to say.

Exhausted, Dad came back upstairs and chewed on the end of a Dutch Masters cigar.

“Snow,” he would say, as if it was invented specifically to annoy him.

“Snow,” Mom and I would reply in solidarity.

Given Dad’s heightened sense of personal grievance, we could only imagine how he might have handled a famous family weather adventure years later.

My father died in 1963. I had six months more of college and then found a job at a Colorado Springs newspaper. Around Mother’s Day, Mom flew out from New York for a short visit.

This was a big deal. Mom rarely traveled beyond Bay Ridge and my wife, Wink, and I wanted her to get a good look at the West. Two trips were possible: south to Santa Fe, New Mexico, or northwest to Salt Lake City.

Mom often listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on radio. “I’d love to see where they sing.”

We left for Utah early and drove deep into the evening.

Still 100 miles from Salt Lake, we got out to stretch. B-r-r-r. Boy, it was cold.

All of a sudden, snow started like crazy — a wicked spring surprise that quickly cloaked the rugged countryside.

I could barely see beyond the windshield when lights appeared at the roadside ahead.

A motel — the Currant Creek Lodge, as I recall.

Did they have a room?

“One,” said the desk clerk. “Two beds. No clean sheets. Yours if you want.”

These were sparsest of accommodations and the place was noisy on a Friday night — music, laughter, loud voices. But, OK, we’d make the best of it.

We kept our clothes on and went to bed. Before lights out, Mom said, “Oh, my.”

“What’s wrong?”

Mom looked overhead.

A previous guest had tacked a Playboy centerfold to the ceiling.

There were a couple seconds of silence. I looked at Mom. Mom looked at Wink. Wink looked at me.

“Oh, my,” we all laughed. “Oh, my.”

In the morning we left — quickly — for Salt Lake City.

We checked into a franchise motel and took showers. We saw where the famous ensemble — these days called The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square — performs. Look at us. Way out in Utah. Wow.

Every once in a while, we began laughing about our night at the Currant Creek and, really, never stopped because the story was told so often over the years.

“Good thing Dad wasn’t there,” we’d sometimes say.

He would have hated the snow. The centerfold? We’ll never know.    

Correction: The poet T.S. Eliot wrote that April was the “cruellest month.” The March 29 column misidentified the author.

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