Berger’s Burg: Winter’s chill brings with it snow piled high like a hill

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Winter is the king of showmen/Turning tree stumps into snow men/And houses into birthday cakes/And spreading sugar over lakes/Smooth and clean and frosty white/The world looks good enough to bite/That’s the season to be young/Catching snowflakes on your tongue. — Ogden Nash

Ol’ Man Winter will be icing his way into Queens Dec. 21 and accompanied by his unwelcome progenies Whitey Snow Flake and Butch Blizzard. I know most people have a love-hate relationship with snow, but not me. I not only hate the snow, but my rancor of it is as deep as the driven snow still in my backyard from last year’s blizzard. I know snow turns our streets into a beautiful winter wonderland and folks find it fun to build snowmen, but who likes shoveling it from sidewalks and scraping it off buried cars?

Not moi.

Winter snuck in,/I was caught unaware./One day I awoke/And the leaves weren’t there./The pumpkin bright orange/Had long since been pies,/And the clear azure hue/Was gone from the skies./That cool nippy chill/Became suddenly cold,/And the breeze oh so gentle/Was a wind downright bold./For Winter had tiptoed,/Nodded her head,/And a blanket of white/Put Autumn to bed. — Micki Dolan

I expect Whitey and Butch to drop around again this winter, so before they do I must perform my winter rituals, such as finding my boots, winter-weight longjohns, snow pellets and heavy-duty shovel somewhere in my closet’s Never Never Land.

Brrr! I’m beginning to envision myself daring to go outdoors during a heavy snowfall and my face turning a pastel-purple, fingers becoming 10 little icicles and slip-sliding to the mailbox to mail my Christmas cards. And, of course, my car will not go and my nose will not stop.

But I am lucky our recent winters almost never matched the legendary winters of yore. The tales about them still send shivers up and down my spine. I still remember most of the recent snowfalls, particularly the 1995-96 winter with its 66.3 inches of snow and vaguely the winter of 1947-48 with its 63.2 inches of snow. But these snowflakes cannot hold a candle to the oldies.

Take the winter of 1887-88, the snowiest winter in New York since official record keeping began in 1869. The great blizzard of 1888 ushered in the modern era of winter misery. The New York Times wrote: “By the time business houses opened that morning, the city was completely isolated from the rest of the world [regarding] telegraphic communicate, [and] Commerce … was all but halted. The police employed messengers to carry news precinct to precinct and mounted firemen patrolled the streets, ready to speed to engine houses to report blazes.”

Appropriately, the wistful song longing for warmer weather “Oh! That We Two Were Maying” was No. 1 on that year’s hit parade.

Jack Frost, he of the icy fingers, now touches the autumnal breeze,/Which seeks not to linger, scurrying in haste lest it freeze./Jack Frost, now safely in command, calls upon every arctic ally/To reach out at his frosty demand and whiten with snow the deepest valley. — Anonymous

And who can forget the winter of 1857-58, when the temperature hit zero? Snow fell for hours to the depth of 5 to 7 feet while the howling wind swept away chimneys and signs, and the winter of 1853-54 swept across the city, blocking all railroads and bringing traffic — and people — to a halt. The East River was packed so solid with ice that people could walk across it.

Do parks get lonely/in winter, perhaps,/when benches have only/snow on their laps? — Aileen Fisher

The winter of 1922-23 was another “ice box.” That season ended in the year when people first danced the Charleston and the word “speakeasy” crept into the American vocabulary. And, it might be noted, one of the musical hits of snowy 1948 was “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

But Gloria taught me how to lessen my antipathy toward snow. Whenever I am confined to the house in snowy weather, she simply holds my hand and sings the paraphrased lyrics of a song written by Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn in 1945: Oh the weather outside is frightful/But Alex is so delightful/And since we’ve no place to go/Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Readers, during these moments, my hatred of snow melts away.

Contact Alex Berger at

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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