We had a little bitty ole snow yesterday that brought northern Alabama to its knees. The appearance of a snowflake immediately causes two things: mass carnage on the streets because drivers skid out of control on the snowflake when it lands and the rest of the drivers run into each other while staring at the snowflake as it is falling down, and a run on the grocery stores for milk and bread.
I have never figured out milk and bread. The bread, OK, it’s fairly nonperishable and can be used to make cold sandwiches, but the milk? If your power goes out, it’s a goner. And you can’t eat milk, I’m fairly certain, unless you freeze it. Maybe that’s the rationale.
Within a couple of hours of the snow beginning to fall and sticking a little on the streets (and let me say, people, it was above freezing all day – most everything melted immediately when it fell) people were skidding and wrecking all over the place. The major interstate that runs up north Alabama (I-65) had come to a complete standstill in both directions. People were off in ditches. Trucks were jackknifed onto the road. The major highways fared similarly. Our ultrasound tech headed for home and turned around in defeat because the roads were “glare ice.” She came back and slept at the hospital that night. Others took four or more hours to get home, as they had to wait for wrecks to clear and timidly limp their way up and down hills with a little wet snow on them.
The schools were immediately canceled. Parents were notified that school was over at one-thirty and we had to have everyone picked up. People were getting their kids and bringing them back to work with them since no work had let out. The schools also had delayed openings for two hours in the morning, thus messing up further workdays. And all this for less than an inch of snow that melted within a couple hours!
Multitudes of our patients called and canceled their appointments. They were scared to drive in the snow and they were all stuck with their kids. And yet, we had to sit around at the clinic until the last patient was seen at five o’clock. They didn’t have the decency to ALL cancel.
My daughter came home to my husband and played in snow that was so shallow you could see the grass under it. She still insisted on trying to make a snow ball. She would have tried to make a snowman but that was impossible. Pictures immediately popped up all over Facebook of families playing in “the big snow”. Snow was scraped up to make tiny snowmen. Tiny snowball fights were had. Some areas did get more snow than others, I’ll admit, but it never dipped below freezing. The main concern, as far as I was concerned, was that it had been raining for three days before the snow came down, and there were floods and the roads were wet. But since it never got below freezing…
We got not a morsel of snow in the downtown area where I work. I was seeing snow pictures all over Facebook, but there was not a drop near the hospital. Not a flake in the air, not a flake on the ground. It was all very disappointing. We got a tiny amount of snow at the house, but it was all melted by the time I drove home at five o’clock. My husband sent me a text with a picture of our daughter out playing in the “snow”. We must have been the laughingstock of the northern states. I was thinking about my impending trip to North Dakota and rolling my eyes imagining what the North Dakotans were thinking about the little Alabamians paralyzed by a little snow. It was really rather embarassing, as it always is when we are paralyzed by snow. In our defense, our communities own no equipment to remove snow, so the roads really can become a little dicey. By this morning, there was not a trace of the snow to be seen. But the schools still opened two hours late.
All day at work, the topic of conversation was the snow and how awful the roads were. My morning surgery got canceled because a pipe burst in the OR, for which I was eternally grateful because I got to sleep an extra hour and a half. I swear, we’d better not get any more snow or it’ll shut the whole state down. Having come from healthy Nebraska stock, I am a little embarassed at living in an area where we can get shut down by a few flakes of snow like that. Just wait til I get to North Dakota! The stories I’ll have to tell!
Since I grew up in Alabama, I have grown up every year in the shadow of tornadoes. My mother is terrified of them, and I spent a significant amout of time in the basement with my mother and my cat. My father, who was not terrified of them, would be up on the roof looking out to see if he could see one coming. Somehow Mom knew a tornado was coming in the middle of the night (I don’t believe we had a weather alert system back then) and she would get me up, and down to the storm shelter we would go. I always had to round up the cat. I wanted to go up on the roof with my dad, but I was strictly forbidden.
I came as close to a tornado as I have ever come when I was in college. Well, except for a couple years ago when there was one hovering over the mall across the street from my hospital. When I was in college, the sky turned black and green and we knew what was coming. I lived in a rickety apartment building, on the second floor, but I had friends in the apartment below and sought out shelter in their downstairs closet. While we were in the closet, the entire building creaked and groaned, and I could swear, slanted. When the wind finally stopped, we emerged to find that the tornado had passed right through the field next to the apartment complex. There were pieces of roof and walls scattered about that the tornado had picked up and dropped there.
When my husband and I were first dating, he came home to Tuscaloosa with me for a visit with my folks. My mom didn’t like him much anyway. I think the feeling was mutual. We went to the fabled Dreamland Barbecue for lunch, only to emerge to a tornado warning. My mother began to get panicky, since we were nowhere near our house or our storm shelter. She urged my father to drive faster, to which he testily replied, “Do you want me to drive through the car in front of us?” When my husband became aware of how terrified of tornadoes Mom really was, a little sadistic streak came out in him. He peered through the back window of the car and announced that he could see some rotation in the clouds above. Needless to say, we barely made it home in one piece, as Mom was practically crawling over my dad in an attempt to stomp on the gas and get us home sooner. When we got home, my husband was treated to one of our family trips to the basement.
April of 2011 was a horrible time for Alabama and storms. That was the month that dozens of tornadoes came through the state in one day – killing and maiming many in their path, with tremendous destruction to property and land. I was at work that day, and we had to bring the office patients down to the bottom floor of the hospital not once but twice. That involved getting them dressed and leading them down the back stairs to the first floor, where they were not allowed to leave until the all-clear was sounded. We also had to roll the hospital inpatients in their beds out into the hall, away from any windows. So, we had patients in various stages of labor parked out in the hall in their hospital beds. We were praying we would not have to deliver anyone out in the hall. Fortunately, our immediate area passed through the tornadoes relatively unscathed. A few miles down the road, they were not so lucky. The tornadoes always seem to pass just south of us. When the tornado struck, tornado casualties were brought by the dozens to our two local hospitals. My partner, who was on call that night, stayed up all night in the ER, suturing superficial wounds and helping the general surgeons with any needed exploratory surgery.
Tuscaloosa, my hometown, was not so lucky. The town was wiped out by a tornado of F4-F5 quality. It was at least a mile wide. The destruction was astounding. The tornado passed very close to where my parents lived, and in their new house, they have no basement. Mom and Daddy were in the laundry room riding out the storm. When they emerged, the town was destroyed. Some foolhardy idiot stayed out in the storm in their car and followed the funnel cloud and filmed it on their cell phone. The video hit U-Tube with a viral wallop. Truly though, half of the town was gone. And this is a town that is no stranger to tornado violence. They got hit by one a few years back that resulted in that iconic photograph of the rescue person carrying the limp body of a child out of the wreckage. That picture made the cover of every newspaper in the country. This new tornado passed through the college campus and nearly took out the newly renovated stadium. The Krispy Kreme was gone. Chuck E. Cheese was gone. Hobby Lobby was gone. Neighborhoods were gone. The tornado came right down the main boulevard in town. The town was in a state of shock. The state was declared a state of emergency.
I have always taken tornadoes seriously, even though I have been exposed to so many of them in my life. But never have I witnessed first hand destruction like that that took place in Alabama that fated April. The state is still attempting to recover. There are still swaths of trees stripped bare by the destruction in their path. Businesses have still not been rebuilt. And it is over a year and a half after the tornadoes hit. I know so many people who are now terrified and helpless at the sound of a tornado warning siren. And we get them all year, although they are seasonal. On today, December 19, the outside temperature is 68 degrees. Tonight and tomorrow, a cold front is coming through and the storms are going to get bad. I am just praying for no tornadoes.
Spending most of one’s life in the land of superlative college football is a real pleasure and a privilege, not to mention quite a trip. I grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I have been horribly spoiled by good football most of my life. College football is a sport in which the women fans are almost as rabid as the men. I have seen fights break out over rival teams, including women slapping and pulling hair. Fights break out when opposing fans sit near each other in the stands. This kind of passion, although at times misguided, is what forms the exciting atmosphere that surrounds near mystical teams.
No discussion of Alabama football would be complete without mentioning Bear Bryant. He is known as the winningest coach of all time, and his character and his wisdom continued a tradition of excellence that was already present in Alabama football when he arrived. Bear Bryant is a hallowed individual in Tuscaloosa and areas surrounding, ranking up there with God and Jesus for persons inspiring reverence. No one badmouths the Bear. Not even people on opposing teams.
I grew up with Bear Bryant and football. He was pretty much ubiquitous as coach during my childhood and adolescence, in large part. I remember when he retired and when he died. I loved the advent of the fall, as it meant cars driving by with their radios tuned to the roar of the football field, and bonfires, and homecoming. I went to school with two of his grandchildren, Stella Gray, and the brother who was younger than me. Needless to say, they were celebrities in their own right, just by dint of their attachment to the great Bear Bryant.
I remember when the Bear won number 315. That was such a huge event, and it was memorialized on radios and TVs everywhere. It even had its own popular radio song. And Blondie sang that song about The Tide Is High; that was such a big hit with everyone. We all sang it. I can remember listening to those songs on the radio while out playing in the yard, and thinking about how neat it was that our team won all the time.
Both my parents taught at the University of Alabama, which made my affinity for the team and the sport even stronger. Every day, I was surrounded by monuments to the strength of the university, the huge library on the Quad, Denny Chimes, the stadium, the President’s Mansion, the Gorgas House, the haunted ROTC tower where civil war look-outs still patrolled. The stadium just grew and grew. They keep adding new seating to it as the games become more and more popular, and it is currently one of the larger stadiums in the country.
When I went to college, the team was not quite as strong as it had been, but it was still a very good team, and the fans turned out as always. The cool part of going to school there was that you got to meet all the players. They were in my parents’ classes, they were in my classes, they showed up on the radio, my friends knew them. It was like being part of Hollywood somehow. I went to Med School in Birmingham, so of course my fandom continued.
In the state of Alabama, everyone must take a stand: Alabama or Auburn, you must pick one or the other. Even if you don’t like college football, or you don’t like football, or you are a fan of another team elsewhere in the country, you still must choose, Auburn or Alabama. There is no other option but to pick a side. Come gameday, you better have a favorite. People put flags in their front yards when football season starts. They put flags on their cars. And when babies are born, little Auburn or Alabama wreaths go up on doors. Sometimes there are people in the same house who root for different teams; these are called “a house divided.” Then the baby wreaths are half and half. The flags are half and half. They actually make such things. And such a difference in a household has caused rifts that last generations.
You’d better not schedule anything important on gamedays. I have known women who only had half their guests show up because they got married on a gameday. Of course, you usually find out that getting married in Tuscaloosa on a gameday is impossible: there are no hotels or venues for weddings or receptions or restaurants that aren’t booked up six months in advance. You don’t travel to or from Tuscaloosa on a gameday unless you are going to the game. Even then, it is best to arrive a day early and leave a day late, for the traffic is prohibitive. The RV campers stay all weekend and party the whole time: the day before, the day of, and the day after. Then, hungover, they slosh their ways back to wherever they came from.
The culmination of the entire season is the Iron Bowl. No matter how each team has done all year, the success or failure of the season boils down to this: who wins? Alabama or Auburn? A team could have a perfect season, but if they lose to that mortal rival, the season is not a success. Nothing is scheduled during the Iron Bowl. I have seen grown men cry because their wives went into labor during the Iron Bowl. I have seen grown women cry because they went into labor during the Iron Bowl. Then which ever team won gets bragging rights over their opponents for the whole year. We get to rub it in all year til the next Iron Bowl.
The last two seasons of Alabama football have been amazing. Of course, we won the National Championship last year, and it looks like we are well on our way again this year. The Alabama/LSU rivalry is very strong, and definitely reared its head last year when LSU won one game and Alabama won the rematch to win the championship. This year’s LSU game was INCREDIBLE. The fans nearly all peed themselves (me included) the whole game. WE WON WITH 93 SECONDS LEFT TO GO. My daughter was asleep and I literally had to stuff my hand in my mouth to keep from screaming out loud at the end of that game. It was GREAT! AJ McCarron, the quarterback, literally burst into tears with raw emotion when he threw that winning pass. He went and hugged his mama, which we all know in the South is what we do when we throw the winning pass. So there is nothing else to say but ROLL DAMN TIDE!!!!
My mother and my daughter and I made our yearly family pilgrimage just last month to a fabulous arts show called Kentuck, which is held each year in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in October. I unwittingly took numerous photos just for this challenge.