Cantore, Collins, and me

2-blizzard-of-1888-nyc-grangerimage from here

I awoke to another gray morn here on the Cutoff.

 I bit my tongue, tried not to complain about the cold, felt mightily for the folks on the east coast; especially Boston.

I remember our winter of ’78/’79, with snow piled so high it bested Tom’s 6’4″ frame. Having “dibs” on parking space even floated out to the burbs that year with folks shoveling snow off their rooftops and the deepening worry of flooding if snow melts too fast.

I will admit to laughing out loud with weatherman, Jim Cantore, who jumped around with unbridled glee at the thundersnow in Boston. Alison of Apple Pie and Napalm recently remarked about weather, that “I never worry until Cantore shows up” in a comment on a recent post. It took me a moment to figure “Cantore” out. I finally remembered.  He is the meteorologist from the Weather Channel who comes out in the worst of storms.

Jim Cantore was enjoying the thundersnow, which is a rare and potentially dangerous phenomenon not often witnessed.  I experienced it for the first time in 2011, and wrote about it here.

But, I digress. . .

. . . as I tickle the keyboard,  snow is sneaking around, barely visible. I knew it was snowing before looking outside, for the room darkened as gathering flakes shaded the skylights; white upon gray upon winter.

I turn to Billy Collins to bring some smiles on yet another colorless, wintry day, where he, too, writes about the sound of snow – and other things.

Snow Day

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.
Billy Collins, “Snow Day” from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems

Oh lolli lolli lolli . . .

A lollipop was mentioned.

I don’t recall why.

 I started signing the oldies song, Lollipop. One thing led to another, Kezzie dashing into her room then back out again, just as I found the Chordettes on youtube. We had some fun singing the lollipop song, over and over again, and trying to make a “pop” sound with our fingers and cheeks at just the right time.

I thought you might have some fun either remembering this, or having some fun of your own with the younger set.

Anyone recognize the chap making the lolli-popping sound?

Do you have a song that brings on silliness and fun?


Love Stories

MagicofOrdinaryDaysth copyth-2th-3th

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Happy Valentine’s Day.

What are some of your favorite love stories?

Packing up the ticking

It is such a joy to have someone who wishes to sit with you on a sofa and listen to a watch tick.  Penelope Fitzgerald

DSCN7323When I first saw this quote on Nan’s blog, Letters from a Hill Farm, I knew I would eventually pirate it to the pages of the Cutoff. Fitzgerald’s quote speaks volumes about the sweet moments of being with children. It is the simple, quiet (or not so) moments that are endearing and that keep us company in the off hours when they are not with us.

As I’m nearing my time to leave for home, the tender moments of being with Kezzie and Ezra are all the sweeter, as is my time with their Daddy and Mommy. I will soon get in my car, packed with my belongings, and a few of theirs; their sweet child smells and their soft padded tread, as well as enough loud and enthusiastic sounds that could fill a sports arena. I will pack their endless questions and propositions. “One more time, Yia Yia.” The whys and whens, and the inevitable poopies, Yia Yia” ). In will go the yogurt smudged sweater and the slightly bent emery board.DSCN7353

Gone is my little notepad, now Kezzie’s Journal. Can you imagine that? A kindred spirit if ever there was one. Her first entry is a picture and a fine one at that.

As I mosey down the long road toward home, I’ll wonder if Ezra will finally call me Yia Yia instead of Jenny – once I close the door – and if Kezzie will still feel our cuddle times when I’m no longer there and I will hold the gentle bliss that comes from listening to a watch click.



DSCN7328Photo on 2-6-15 at 1.46 PMPhoto on 2-10-15 at 12.05 PM #2

What Woke Me Up

Very early Sunday morning, not quite dawn, something woke me up. A sound. I glanced around, peaked out of the bedroom windows, went down the stairs, looked out the door. Nothing was amiss. All I saw were snowflakes, dancing in the air. I knew what had awakened me.

It was the sound of snow.

Snow has a tune of its own, with notes that form a melody that is as hard to explain as each different, downy flake. It was the sound of snow that woke me.

Awake, I put the teakettle on, set out a cup and saucer, swirled some local honey in the cup, and waited for the pot to boil. As I waited for the water  to boil, I remembered a poem by Wallace Stevens.

The Snow Man by Wallace StevensDSCN7152

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.



This post was originally written in July, 2010 after a chance meeting of a newborn baby named Scout at a favorite restaurant. The exciting news today that a long forgotten first novel of Harper Lee is being published this summer (2015) brought to mind my blog of almost five years ago, and the little baby named Scout, wondering aloud about how she has grown and wondering if her mom with buy the book.

Originally posted on Lifeonthecutoff's Blog:

She was sleeping soundly. I stopped to coo and admire her at the next table in the restaurant.  The sweet, sleeping, little baby girl who was just 5 days old. I do that a lot. Stop and check out babies in restaurants, or wherever else they may be. I have always been one to stop and peek and make baby noises, but, well, I have gotten worse now that I have a grandchild, especially one who is far away. I need my baby fix, often. So, there I was , cooing, asking all sorts of questions of a very friendly mom of three, including the newborn baby.

The baby’s name was Scout.

I smiled and said “How lovely. It is the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, did you know?” She knew.  She had read Harper Lee’s book and she named her baby girl Scout. Maya Scout, actually…

View original 331 more words

It’s all in a name



We like to name our snowstorms here in Chicagoland. We stack them up like snow shovels at the back door, waiting for the next big one to come drifting down and then we recall their names in our collective memories.

The Big Snow.  New Year’s Eve Storm. 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard. The Valentine’s Day Storm. The Blizzard of ’79. This weekend’s snowstorm has been christened The Super Bowl Blizzard.

From late Saturday night to early Monday morning, snow swirled and twirled and sleeted  – and it edged out a previous March snow record, my father’s blizzard, knocking it down by an inch in its ranking, making The Super Bowl Blizzard the 5th highest accumulation of snow in Chicago’s history, measuring in at officially 19.3 inches.

My father and his sister, Christina, aged 12 and 10 at the time, had their tonsils removed on March 25, 1930 at the Presbyterian Hospital. It was just two blocks from their house. They walked to the hospital and would have walked back home the next day if nature had not made a call with what was, at the time, the greatest recorded snowfall in the history of the City of Chicago; a record that held until 1967.  *

The Presbyterian Hospital was one of the first of its kind in Chicago. It was affiliated with Rush University, and today is part of the Rush Medical Center, one of the finest in the world. Renamed Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Hospital, it also claimed the tonsils of my sister and me in 1962. I call it the “two for one sale”; siblings who have tonsillectomies at the same time. My father and aunt. Tom and his sister, Maura. Dottie and Penny. You?

I remember both snowstorms well, even though I was not yet born in 1930. I was not even a “twinkle in my father’s eye” in 1930. My memories are family folklore, for that storm and it’s events were retold, each and every winter, after big snowfalls, and every March of my childhood.

On March 25 and 26, 1930, snow fell as Daddy and Aunt Christina were having their tonsils snipped. By the time they were sufficiently recovered,  Chicago was blanketed in deep snow. No streetcars were moving. No cabs. Nothing was moving. It was too cold and dangerous for Pete and Christina to walk home and they were too big to be safely carried.  Biting winds swept in off the Lake. Not many drove cars back then; well, no one but Bill, a cousin.

Bill and his machine were dispatched. The children were bundled beyond recognition. They were settled into a 192o’s automobile which moved, inch by inch, home. My grandfather sat in the passenger seat. Pete and Christina were nestled in the back seat under an array of blankets.  It took them almost an hour to drive two blocks. Bill and my grandfather got them home safe and sound.

My family never forgot Bill’s kindness in bringing the children home that day. I was born in that very same hospital; my mother and father walking the two blocks to my birth. Bill would become my godfather.

The 1930 March blizzard would come out of the deep well of family lore each winter; a reminder of a big snowstorm that my father and aunt endured after their tonsillectomies and were driven home in a car. While I enjoyed hearing about the storm, as I did about all family stories, I was secretly, childishly, elated for The Big Snow of ’67.  That historical blizzard gave me and my generation of Chicago area kids a big snow of our own.

The Big Snow of 1967 holds a record which has never been broken. 23 inches of snow fell in that snowstorm. It brought the City of Chicago and the suburbs to a halt and is etched in the memories of my generation as much as the many other memories of that era.

That snowstorm of 1967 was the “perfect storm”, of Biblical proportions it seemed. It is still talked about around kitchen tables and by meteorologists, who pull it out of the archives of storms whenever another big snow falls. So it now, as we shovel out of the Super Bowl Blizzard of 2015, which just nudged my father’s 1930’s storm to 6th place . .

. . . and we still recall The Big Snow of 1967, a storm like no other.

It’s all in a name – or one tenth of an inch.


* There have been years with more snowfall in a season. These records are sustained snowfalls without stopping.

1. 23.0 inches January 26-27, 1967 The Big Snow

2. 21.6 inches January 1-3, 1999 The New Year’s Storm

3. 21.2 inches January 31-February 2, 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard

4. 20.3 inches January 12-14, 1979 Blizzard of 79

5. 19.3 inches January 31-February 2, 2015 The Super Bowl Blizzard

6. 19.2 inches March 25-26, 1930

7. 16.2 inches March 7-8, 1931

8. 14.9 inches January 30, 1939

9. 14.9 inches January 6-7, 1918

10. 14.8 inches December 17-19, 1929

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