Portfolio: Arctic blast brings a warm reminder of blizzard of 1950

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This arctic winter of our discontent is a reminder that Mother Nature holds power over us. Yet, the blizzard of November 1950 taught me that I could have power over Mother Nature by choosing to turn the worst of winter into a magical time.

I awoke one morning to a snow globe world. It looked as if all the pixies had sprinkled their magical white fairy dust over Simona Drive in my Stanton Heights neighborhood.

As a 3-year-old, I did not worry about fathers struggling to put chains on car wheels in order to get to work, or mothers digging through mounds of snow to find the glass bottles they hoped the milkman had delivered to the back porch.

I did not have sympathy for the mailman who would have to trudge through high drifts in order to deliver our catalogs and bills. And I did not roar with happiness over Thanksgiving Day weekend that school would be closed the following week, because I was still young enough to want to go to school, just like my older brother.

All I thought about on that snow globe day was snow angels and snowballs and snow forts and snowmen and snow fun!

And fun is how I still remember the 1950 blizzard and its more than 2 feet of snow. After rushing through an oatmeal breakfast and donning shirts, sweaters, jackets, leggings, pants, socks, hat, scarf, gloves and boots, I was ready to waddle outside and let the day begin.

Dad and I built a snow woman, with Grandma contributing her old summer straw hat for our frosty lady's head and shiny black buttons from her jar of special buttons for the eyes; Ma warmed us with our first of several cups of hot Ovaltine and marshmallows.

With our snow woman watching over us, Dad and I pulled the wooden sled with silver blades -- not as grand as Cinderella's carriage, but good enough for me -- to the top of the street. From that perspective, and with the sun smiling down through the falling snow, Simona Drive looked like a white highway paved with diamonds.

Spring afternoons of racing across the street's warm cement to play hide 'n seek with friends, summer evenings of lining up to buy treats from the ice cream truck and fall mornings of browsing through the bookmobile for a new picture book were forgotten, as with a whoosh and a "Whee!" we flew down the sloped road. I did not even have to huff and puff up the hill because Dad, always gallant, pulled both the sled and me back to the top.

Another cup of hot Ovaltine with marshmallows, this time accompanied with grilled cheese sandwiches, led to the highlight of the day -- with my help (more verbal encouragement than actual physical labor), Dad built an igloo of snow.

The igloo lacked the intricate architecture of the previous summer's sandcastle Dad and I had constructed in Atlantic City, but it still radiated a beauty of its own: smooth-as-glass walls, a round roof that reminded me of the top of our orange juice squeezer, and a soft floor, thanks to the old quilt from the basement storage trunk.

The igloo was the perfect size for Dad and me to sit next to each other -- a father and daughter finding comfort in a welcoming shelter and in each other's company. A lifelong storyteller, Dad entertained me with tales of other blizzards that began with "Once upon a time ..." and included daring feats of charming princes and undying love of beautiful princesses -- all named Ronna, and ended with "happily ever after." He even taught me the nose-to-nose Eskimo kiss!

Since that storm more than 60 years ago, I have experienced many more storms, some caused by nature and some created by human acts committed by others and myself.

With Dad, sometimes literally and always symbolically, by my side, I have managed to survive every natural and emotional tempest in my life. However, I have never again embraced a blizzard or any challenge with the energy and enthusiasm and unadulterated joy with which I embraced the 1950 blizzard in Pittsburgh.

Ronna L. Edelstein, a teacher living in Oakland, may be reached at rledel@aol.com.

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