It has finally snowed, two months later than it should have, and the forecasters are telling us to expect temps. in the 50s on Monday.
I am old enough to remember first New Jersey snowfalls before Thanksgiving, single-digit temperatures in January and February, and wearing a sweater to fireworks on Fourth of July. Except for the freak October snow storm this year, we have been stuck in an extended Groundhog-Day Autumn.
I feel cheated. I grew up in South Florida, where snow has never fallen. As a boy, I longed for the change of season, for snow to play in, for the crisp feel of cold and dry air in my nostrils. On Florida winter mornings, when the temperature hovered in the 30s, but seldom hit freezing temperatures, I would wake up, retrieve The Miami Herald from the front lawn and turn to the national weather map, with its isobars, circles of low and high pressure zones and sample low temperatures. As March and April approached, I would sigh and feel sad because I had missed yet another winter.
The closest I came to winter was when I helped my father, who was in the meat business, when he visited his suppliers, who cut meat in large, refrigerated work spaces. We would don white cotton jackets before entering, and carry large slabs of meat to his truck, or scoop hamburger into five-pound plastic bags, causing my fingers to ache from the cold.
Years later, when I returned from Vietnam, I was assigned to the Army Pictorial Center (now the Astoria Studios) in Queens, NY. I was delighted at the prospect of enjoying my first real winter. One afternoon, in the second week of November, I looked out the window and saw the most beautiful sight in my life. Large, white snowflakes were drifting downward out of a gray sky. I was mesmerized by the beauty of this awe-inspiring sight, while the civilian workers, who were winter-hardened and cynical NY residents, groaned and grumbled about the difficulties they would have getting home.
I left work that day and drove to Manny, Moe and Jack's, otherwise known as Pep Boys, and bought the first set of snow tires to grace my 1955 Chevrolet, which had heretofore known only Florida sub-tropic weather. I was ecstatic.
I went to bed that night with the windows open, snugly wrapped in blankets. The next morning, the normal rumble of the Long Island Expressway outside my window was muffled, the ground was covered with a white blanket of soft snow and once again I was enthralled by the beauty of it all.
I quickly got dressed, hopped into my car and took off down the hill on which I had parked, secure in belief of the traction of my new snow tires. Unfortunately, I didn't know that soft snow, when compacted, becomes slippery ice. The result was a long, heart-pounding and uncontrolled slide down the hill into a utility pole. Thus began my introduction to the negative aspects of winter.
Several years later, I moved from the Washington, DC suburbs to Summit, NJ (25 miles west of the Hudson River). The first decade or so I lived here, we could expect first snow in mid-November, weekly snow until March and single-digit or below-zero temperatures for a couple of weeks in January and February.
I have fond winter memories. Of the day my oldest daughter shoveled a zigzag path in the snow to our front door; of snowmen and snow women; of making snow angels and taking my daughters sledding; of ski expeditions, and most of all, visits to the grandparents in Massachusetts where the snow glistened at night like precious crystals in a necklace and snow that was so cold it couldn't be compacted into a snow ball.
I am disgruntled. That is all gone now. Someone stole my winter. Short of moving to New Hampshire or Minnesota, I am doomed to experience the kind of wimpy, annoying and ugly-slushy winters of the near-north, rather than the crisp, snowy, sometimes blizzardly weather of the true north.
I don't know what impact this climate change will have on wildlife in New Jersey. More deer? I certainly observed more chipmunks raiding my garden last summer than normal. Will mosquitoes, deer ticks and other nuisance insects proliferate? Will a longer growing season help us or will the summers be drier or wetter, inhibiting crops? Will the change in temperature affect algae bloom in lakes and reservoirs and change the balance of fish in those waters?
Most of all, I wonder, if temperatures are 20 degrees above normal in January, what will they be in August? Who knows what will happen? All I do know is, I want my winter back!
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Henry Bassman has lived in Summit, NJ for 37 years. He retired from AT&T where he wrote about high-technology science and engineering. He now writes about biotechnology, medical devices and healthcare companies and issues. Articles by Henry can be seen on ABCNews.com, CNN.com and other business Web sites. You can write to Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.