For many of us along the East Coast, this weekend has shown near record snow falls. We have seen children sledding, laughing and giggling all the while and when their play is done, they have made their way inside and with red cheeks, they have guzzled hot chocolate. Most can be heard exclaiming, that this was the best snow ever!
Hmmm… Was it really? If you ask most adults, they will tell you in a heart beat, that it was pretty when it was coming down and they were glad for the extended weekend- BUT they are ready for it to be gone, because, you know there is this thing called ‘adulting’ in which being able to get out of parking lots and driveways to head to work plays a pretty important (okay, major) part in everyday life.
All of this got me thinking about the dead. Surprisingly, they have been quite quiet during all of this pondering, thus leaving me to my own imaginations and devices… Oh boy.
On January 27, 1772, snow began to fall around the home of my 5x great grandfather, William D. Massey (1743-1815). He was 29 years of age. He had not yet found his wife or began his family. As of yet, I have not discovered his means of employment, but I believe he had to be a man of some means as his son, Lewis owned slaves and thus it is presumed that he also owned slaves. Anyway, it begins to snow. I wonder if he or his family thought or realized that this snow was to be different than others past or were they aware that a blizzard was a comin’? As the day grew longer and the snow grew heavier, what were the thoughts going through his mind? Did he still live at home with his parents or did he make plans to check up on them? Did he have younger siblings or older siblings with children that were anxious to frolic in the snow? Were these imagined children even allowed to romp in the snow and build snowmen or make snow angels or have snowball fights amongst their friends? How would the house have prepared for the snow? Would the women (or the slaves) have cooked up mounds of food in preparation for the coming weather?
It continued to snow until the evening of January 28. It was a record snow (as recorded in both Washington and Jefferson’s diaries) of 36 inches! We had a mere 18 inches and EVERYTHING came to a complete standstill. Did life come to a halt as it did presently? And by life, did that include the slaves? How did these ancestors of mine make it through with their sanity intact? I am sure they sang and enjoyed music and played chess and read books and had their needle point, but… cabin fever has to set in at some point, right? I mean, I for one, have banned Frozen and all her companions and it has only been 4 days… and the snow isn’t really going anywhere. I absolutely must know how they managed and yet, I haven’t a clue…
Another January, another storm rages upon the home of my ancestors. It is 1857 and it is the 18th. The storm will come to be called, “The Cold Storm” and temperatures fell nearly to 0 degrees and it will last for at least two days, followed by a reinforcement storm days later for three more days. My 2x great grandmother, Lucy Lilly Chambers is 7 years old. She, along with her parents (no known siblings to date) are black. I am certain they were not afforded the same creature comforts William had. Does this also mean that she did not suffer the same restrictions of the women of his era? Was she, at 7 allowed to run through the snow? Did her mother bundle her up in layers and shoo her outside, ‘to get some fresh air’ much like I have found myself saying this weekend? What was her home like? Surely, this family didn’t have anyone cooking meals for them, so how did they endure these horrid temperatures? Did neighboring families come together and enjoy the company of each other for the duration of the storm? I do not know what kind of home they had, but I imagine it to be a one or two room building (kind of like what is described in Maya Angelou’s ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings) but then I quarry with myself that it wasn’t that extreme, was it? I mean M.A.’s story takes place in the DEEP SOUTH, whereas, my people are in Central Virginia, surely they had it a little better than a shack in Arkansas, right? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t even think this branch of the ancestors had a mule…
Alright, so I guess the point I am coming to make is that every generation has their own version of ‘the best snow ever’ and the parents in those generations, each have their own versions of Frozen hell to deal with. What are some of your traditions for snowy weather? Do you go outside and play with your children or did you, if they are grown now? Do you make lots of food, just in case the power goes out? Do you raid the grocery stores or do you muddle through with quiet determination? I would love to hear your winter tales and woes! Leave me a note in the comments and tell me all about them! Let’s commiserate together. Also, don’t forget to like and share!
For more on Virginia’s weather history, please visit