BY SARAH NIGBOR
Blizzard of 1991
As the air turns chillier and the leaves drift downward, fall is most definitely in the air. Our house is decked out with festive fall and Halloween décor. Purple bat and orange pumpkin lights blink in dark corners, our windows are plastered with Halloween window clings and witches, owls and ghosts commune with each on our fireplace.
I am known as the festive one in our family and I’m proud to be! In my opinion, life is too short not to celebrate every chance you get. I love to decorate the house for each holiday and season. My husband pretends to be annoyed by it, but he’s admitted grudgingly that it’s grown on him. The kids whole-heartedly get into it and love to help me.
I’m the person who has socks for each holiday as well: Halloween, Valentines Day, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July and of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Usually, I have earrings or a necklace to match. I feel like I’m helping our Wisconsin sports teams when I wear my Packer or Badger earrings (that might be called superstition).
I’m also the entertainment director in the family, which of course means activities and outings are coordinated with the seasons as well. Halloween and fall are not complete without visits to a pumpkin patch, apple orchard and spooky trail or corn maze. As much as I hate the feeling of pumpkin guts on my hands, we must carve jack-o-lanterns each year. The kids pick their own designs and while not super elaborate, none was simpler than Lincoln’s one year. He carved a giant, round hole in his pumpkin with no accompanying decoration. He himself didn’t even know what it was supposed to be. My cousin called it The Great Void.
Our oldest, who is 14, has lost interest in trick-or-treating, but the younger three still get into it. When they complained about the weather being cold and drizzly three years ago, I told them my version of the “trudging to school uphill both ways barefoot in a blizzard story.” The Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991 was 30 years ago. If I could survive that night and come home with candy, my kids can suffer through a little drizzle. Plus, how could we pilfer their Snickers bars from their bags while they’re sleeping if they chickened out and didn’t get any?
In 1991, I lived with my mom and grandparents three miles east of River Falls. As I impatiently waited for my mother to get home from work, I watched the freezing rain fall outside the window. It soon changed to snow and the wind kicked up. I started to get worried. It was getting deep and surely Mom wouldn’t take me trickor- treating. I resigned myself to a Snickerless Halloween and felt a child’s despair at missing one of the best nights of the year.
I watched as my mom’s Plymouth Horizon slipped and slid into the driveway. My grandparents prudently advised my mother to stay home. But my mother, ever the adventurous one, refused to let a little snow deter her. Did I mention she loves holidays even more than I do? Wise or not, we headed to town without issue. As the snow fell fast and furious and the drifts grew taller, Mom plowed her tiny car through the rutted River Falls streets. Witches and superheroes struggled down icy sidewalks, fewer than usual, intent on filling their buckets with sweets.
Soon even we realized it wasn’t worth it. I was soaked and I was positive my feet would never be warm again. The wind piled drifts throughout the streets and trudging through the piles was exhausting. After getting stuck in a snowbank or two and almost kissing a power pole, we made it home unscathed, Snickers in hand. The good thing about trick-or-treating in a blizzard is the homeowners handed out extra candy, for fear they’d be stuck with it. I’ll never forget that night and how eerie the silent snowscape glowed through the windows on the way home. And how happy I was that we went. In hindsight, we probably should have stayed home.
According to the National Weather Service, more than 20 inches of show fell across northwestern Wisconsin from Bayfield to River Falls at about two inches per hour. Thunder and lightning accompanied the snow and 40 mph wind gusts.
So when my kids complain about a little drizzle? They don’t know how easy they’ve had it.