Arts & Culture

An Asheville Native Returns Home Just in Time for a Winter Doozy

Navigating a rare Southern snowstorm, this time as an adult

Photo: Lauren Northup

At play before the snow.

The Blizzard of ’93 hit the mountains of North Carolina when I was eight years old, which is the universally acknowledged perfect age for maximum snow enjoyment. My wild gang of neighborhood kids spent our days building elaborate networks of snow tunnels, sword fighting with icicles, and pouring powdered sachets of hot chocolate directly into each other’s mouths in lieu of meals. All but one of us was able to avoid the barbed wire fence at the bottom of the sledding hill, but glass eye technology has come a long way since ’93 and you wouldn’t know to look at him now.

The blizzard stretched on for what seemed like an eternity. Exhausted by the end of each day, I curled up inside my sleeping bag and practically vibrated with excitement. What a lark to live without electricity, all of us stacked up like cord wood to keep warm! School canceled, endless play, and no showers—a paradise. I was permitted to cook potatoes in the embers of the fire like my heroine, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and my mother even allowed me to tie a rope from the corner of the garage to the back door so we wouldn’t lose our way in the storm. If my parents were stressed by the prospect of keeping all of us alive and (mostly) intact through a blizzard, I didn’t notice. My mother was too busy melting snow for water so we could flush the toilets.

photo: Lauren Northup
The author in Asheville in 1993.

“If I had to feed your family with no power, snowed in, I would be panicking right now,” my mother said yesterday over the phone. Winter storm Izzy was gathering strength, and the radio informed us that those of us near Asheville were looking at anywhere between ten inches and three feet of snow, and she is familiar with my son’s appetite. I have two children who are at the perfect age for snow enjoyment, but I am not thinking about sledding. I am calculating how much macaroni and cheese is enough (infinite) and considering the strength of the tree limbs overhanging our roof. I am worrying about bursting pipes and how we can stay warm at night if the power goes.

We moved home to the mountains this summer after a decade in the South Carolina Lowcountry. While I kept plenty of family mountain traditions alive for my kids, I haven’t experienced a snowstorm since I left the mountains at seventeen, so my survival instincts are somewhat dulled. In a delightful if slightly reckless stroke of romanticism, we purchased a house clinging to the side of a mountain twelve miles down a treacherous winding road in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The elderly couple who sold us the house left behind a three-page letter on the kitchen counter, two pages of which were devoted to winter storm preparedness. “The carport at the top of the drive is an eye-sore, but you will be glad to have it when it snows,” they wrote. I parked my car in it this morning, peered down our nearly vertical driveway, and said a few words of thanks into the air.

On this, the eve of projected snow fall, I am counting our granola bars and making sure we possess the same number of gloves as hands. The windows overlooking our backyard are smudged with waist-high nose prints, evidence of our children’s constant vigil. Whether we get ten inches or three feet, my most fervent hope is that I can navigate the storm with the cool finesse of my parents in ’93. May sleeping on the floor by the fire be an adventure; may cooking potatoes in tin foil be a privilege; and may the barbed wire at the bottom of the hill be visible. Here we go!