Even though I have two degrees from the University of Toledo, I only attended the graduation ceremony for the first one; the second coincided with a family event that my father wanted to go to, so I didn’t take part in that ceremony. (My father wanted to go to this family event because he was worried about his mother’s failing health, but ironically enough, she wound up outliving him by a couple of years.) There was a lot going on in my life when I went to that graduation ceremony, and not all of it had to do with all the changes I was experiencing as I made the transition from undergraduate student to graduate student; I haven’t written on here yet about the huge tragedy I endured a few weeks prior to the ceremony, but that’s another detail of my life that you’ll have to wait to read about until I write my memoirs, if even then.
I remember a lot about the ceremony I went to, of course, not the least of which was that I was one of about a dozen students recognized for a 4.0 grade point average throughout my undergraduate career. After the ceremony was over, I saw one of my friends from my creative writing classes there for the last time, and then I stopped at a local coffeehouse on the way home so I could unwind with a green tea smoothie. Of all the day’s details that remain lodged in my head close to fifteen years later, though, the piles of snow in the UT parking lots remain one of the most enduring.
Toledo getting snow in April isn’t rare, but it isn’t exactly common. When snow does fall, it rarely accumulates, and when it accumulates then it rarely stays on the ground for more than a day or two. We had a lot of snow and colder-than-usual temperatures that winter, and as I was winding down my final weeks of undergraduate studies there, I couldn’t help noticing how spring just wasn’t coming to Toledo like it usually did in the first weeks of April. Yes, nearly all of the snow had melted away by the first of May, but where snowplows had pushed the snow into great big mountains, remnants of those piles endured day after day. As I went through finals week there, in the Saturday before the graduation ceremony, I kept wondering if the snow would disappear by the time I got my diploma. Sure enough, as I was leaving campus that afternoon, I saw a couple of very small, but still noticeable, banks of snow in the parking lots. That may have been the only time in my life I saw snow in May.
I’d heard a lot about the winters here in Wisconsin before I moved here, of course, but they really rolled out the welcome mat for me earlier this year with record-setting cold a couple of months ago. I haven’t said much about the snow this past winter, just because it kind of paled in comparison to the temperatures we were all having to endure here, but at one point the snow was high enough to bury the picnic tables on campus. Compared to Toledo, I’d say it was one of the highest snow accumulations I’ve ever experienced, but nothing like the stereotypes of snowfalls here in the upper Midwest. Apart from the icy footpaths that came along with it, the snow didn’t pose all that much of a problem for me, at least compared to the cold.
A few weeks ago, though, Wisconsin decided to skip right ahead to mid-spring weather, without the gradual warming I’m used to feeling in March. This caused all that snow to start melting so quickly that it led to massive flooding in the region that quickly traveled south, causing billions of dollars in damage. I was glad for the warmer weather, of course, but I arrived here last August just as another round of flooding was devastating the region (so much so that I had to take an alternate route just to get to campus for the first time), and it sickens me to hear of all the damage being done to this community by flooding for the second time in less than eight months.
As we hit the peak of this heat wave over the weekend — we got close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, and we’re supposed to get even hotter today — I’ve been keeping a close eye on one of those stubborn snowbanks just outside my bedroom window. The snow nearly everywhere else melted away over a week ago, but even with temperatures staying above freezing for days on end, there’s still this one patch of snow that just doesn’t want to go away. It’s hard to look at it and not remember that graduation ceremony back in 2004, when there was still snow on the campus of the University of Toledo even though it was May.
That snow eventually melted away, of course, just as this patch I’m looking at right now will soon become water that’s absorbed into the ground as well. When I was going through all those changes in my life fifteen years ago, though, sometimes I wondered if somehow those final piles of snow would find a way to endure, just to remind me of the cold and the discomfort that so much snow causes. Maybe I’m not going through such a tumultuous period of my life right now (at least compared to then), but I can’t help wondering how much longer I’ll see that snow right next to my window, especially since (and here comes the punch line) we’re supposed to get more snow on Wednesday. Welcome to life in Wisconsin.