Yesterday, when I was waiting at the bus stop, it occurred to me I’d been here before. Not at the bus stop per se, but in the sub-freezing temperatures and snow in Walla Walla. The déjà vu winter moment sent me right back to the winter of 1978-79.
Of course, there are some differences between then and now. Then, I was 19; now, I am 59. Then, I was recently married; now, I am recently widowed. Then, I was a sophomore at Whitman College; now, I’m a writer and the mother of a 4-legged herd.
Both winters I’ve had to adapt to cooking for one (my first husband was a brick layer and had to work 300 miles away, where the temperatures were above freezing). Both winters I’ve had ankle-high waffle stompers laced to my feet, and I’ve had to figure out snow travel (then to and from campus, now to and from downtown). Both winters I’ve regarded the long term weather forecast and thought, “You’re kidding, right?” For though Walla Walla is in eastern Washington State, a region known for severe winters, Walla Walla is considered to have a temperate “banana belt” climate. Except this winter and the winter of 1978-79.
Okay, that’s a mild exaggeration. It was incredibly cold 2 years ago when there was ice on the ground for over 100 days, long enough to damage some of the wheat crop with a condition known as snow mold. However. . .
Walla Walla’s bus service, Valley Transit, was founded as the Walla Walla County Public Transportation Benefit Area in 1979. If this happened in early 1979, I missed it. Every week day back then I made a 1-mile slog to campus and back, made worse by the fact that when I was “home” at the apartment we rented on Locust Street I lived in virtual isolation. Grocery shopping was a nightmare, lugging a heavy paper sack in front of me and a backpack burdened with foodstuffs and hideously heavy text books (why did I take Shakespeare that semester?) to the aft.
But you know what? I survived. And spring finally came, late and lovely.
This year, I’m surviving, too. Provisions for me and the 4-legged kids were laid in last week, before the cold snap hit. My schedule is light on appointments, so I don’t have to venture into the elements every single day for long minutes that sometimes turn into hours. And when I do, there’s the bus, Pleasant Street Loop Route 7. It runs weekdays, from my stop every hour at one minute past the hour, and leaves the downtown transit station every hour at forty-five minutes past. Depending on direction and the number of stops requested, the ride is ten or twenty minutes. The fare is fifty cents, one way.
I guess I had to experience walking a mile to school and back in two feet of snow to earn bragging rights, but I couldn’t help but notice: the Pleasant Street Loop return route stops within a block of the drab little apartment I inhabited in 1979. It seems that life has conspired to throw me the kindness of a bus ride home, now, when I need it even more. Thank you, life.
To those of you who are jubilantly singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” put a sock in it. As for the coming of spring, I dearly hope that Punxsutawney Phil, who did not see his shadow February 2, is right on the money.
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