Today I put on burgundy corduroys and giant sweater with cats. I stuffed a pair of navy and mustard gloves in my back pocket, selected some gold earrings, and added a middle part to the ensemble. Then everything stopped and my snowy trek to the quad was put on hold by a wiry and silver annoyance sprouting from the top of my head.
I thought the cat sweater made me look five. But with the appearance of a gray hair I suddenly felt like an old cat lady closer to the age of seventy-two.
As weird as this scraggly surprise was, it fit in perfectly with the other unexpected events of the week: three snow days in Tuscaloosa sandwiched between sixty-degree-weather weekends and Facebook post upon tweet upon Instagram upon Snapchat of my hometown friends leaving their vehicles after hours and hours of attempted travel on the roads I traversed mindlessly in fifteen minutes.
We all started our Tuesdays with a small glimmer of hope that a few flurries might render the roads just unsafe enough to spend the rest of the day in the presence of people we enjoy, pelting each other with compacted snow then warming back up with the added company of Netflix and Swiss Miss.
This may have been the route for my college town, but for my hometown the story differed tremendously. My mom walked three miles to get my littlest brother from school and then another three home; my other brother stayed with a friend because the cars couldn’t make it out of school and over the hill; and my dad left his car to walk the final two miles left after previously driving twenty over five hours.
I suppose this event might be a test question someday.
The answers might be “January 28, 2014” or “2 inches of snow” or “lack of proper equipment” or maybe even “schools housed students throughout the night.”
But I hope the causes pale in comparison to the effects.
The cold biting at the cheeks and stinging the noses of a community of people who prefer the comforting familiarity of sweltering heat and beads of sweat. The cold causing flurries and ice to impede travel and normal routines. The cold that constricted a community back to the simplicity of the selfless actions that make survival just a little sweeter.
We’ve probably all read and memorized events that occurred after others began their typical Tuesdays, unaware that “history would be made” later in the day. And I don’t know that the Tuesday mornings are ever fully aware of the importance and relevance of their afternoons or evenings.
Wiping out in front of the Gorgas House attempting to dance on a surface better suited for belly-sliding penguins (as proven by the end result of my short-lived performance) may not have made national news, but it still wasn’t part of my Tuesday morning’s plan for the afternoon.
These unexpected moments, where we’re the most unprepared and caught at our most vulnerable, often become the ones we remember the most fondly. There may be nothing like finally feeling the success of something we’ve worked hard to achieve, but an equally appealing exhilaration lies in the moments we learn from without planning for in advance.
So whether a single flake of snow or a single piece of hair, each sparkling surprise has the potential to morph into a new segment of our histories, so long as we’re open to embracing its every opportunity.