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Finland Life

Blizzard Memories

It’s blizzard time. Looking out the window, white snowflakes swirl and dance aimlessly. There’s chaos in the air – or, as one might say, drama – in the shape of little white flakes.

I see a mum pulling a pram in the snow in our courtyard. Her steps are the first to brake the soft, smooth blanket. She’s doing her pram workout in a smart way, walking backwards, pulling the pram.

This is bringing back a memory that I can fondly play in my head now that enough time has past for the sweat to have dried. It must’ve been the first winter my kids were at daycare: they were one and a half years old.

We already had lots of snow but on top of it, a blizzard. I had a whole park to cross with my heavy double stroller with winter covers, two big little boys wearing half their wardrobe, bags of extra clothes and diapers and whatnot. The stroller was heavy and hard to manuever even without snow and we later ended up trading it for a lighter model. But this first one was what I was stuck with that day. Literally – we got stuck in the snow.

I was pushing and pushing, watching people go past me. Some were pulling plastic sleds, and that’s what I do in snowy weather now, because it’s a great way to get my 5-year-olds to get to daycare on time. They are happy to be pulled and I get a workout. But this day, 4 years ago, I was struggling to get forward in the snow.

Some parents walking past me shouted little lines of encouragement. Some said something sympathetic. And finally, someone told me something useful. They said I should turn the pram around and pull it. I was doing it the hard way without noticing!

Turning the pram around, however, wasn’t easy either, since I was almost knee-deep in snow. At some point, I had to lift my kids out and put them in the snow, where they hovered like miniature Michelin men. If you’ve ever seen Nordic toddlers in winter gear, you’ll know how cute they look. They could barely move at all. But the snow was almost as tall as the kids and I was close to panic at this point. What if they lose their balance, tip over and sink into the snow?

Somehow, we made it to daycare, and now it’s just another memory of a precious moment in life that’ll never return.

Sometimes, a blizzard can look like a postcard, or it can be accompanied by a coldness that makes your eyeballs hurt. The little white flakes attack you horizontally and you have to look at your feet when you walk.

Some 30 years ago, during winter holidays, I’d fly up north to the town of Oulu to visit my grandmother who had only recently moved back from Australia. Those trips always included Finnish macaroni casserole, lots of word games, and long, pampering baths, after which I’d dry myself in her large, fluffy Australia towel. The trips also included, without fail, a blizzard and theatre tickets.

They were connected, because the worst blizzard day always coincided with our theatre day. We’d walk with the wind blowing against us, leaning forward in an attempt to move in the right direction. Slow steps in the snow, boots heavy, laughing at the struggle. And then we’d arrive at the theatre, indoors, and all was calm.

My grandmother had to get up early for work, so at night, I’d stay up late alone. Nothing much was on Finnish TV back then except old Hollywood movies and musicals, and so I’d watch them and indulge in chocolate. And then I’d fly back home again, an unaccompanied minor with her ticket hanging in a plastic pouch on her neck, and a tiny plane, shaking in the wind. Blizzards don’t cancel flights, school, appointments, or anything else over here. It’s business as usual.

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40 replies on “Blizzard Memories”

The thing I love from your blog, apart from the always wonderful stories, are the pictures of Helsinki, a city that for some reason occupies a unexpectedly large part of my heart. So you folks got winter! Blizzards even. It’s been a while since a genuine blizzard hit the Netherlands. But I know what you mean – there is beauty in a well done blizzard, and when it’s over the world is a fairy tale (Not with strollers perhaps!) I had to laugh imagining your boys hovering on the snow. And I can very much understand the sweetness of the memories of visiting your grandmother up north. The adventurous walk to the theater and certainly the shaky flight back, young eyes looking to the future yet unknown.

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Young eyes looking into the future, you put it so poetically! No wonder you’re a published author, Peter 😊 You have a way with words. Thanks yet again for visiting my post and commenting! Funny, but I really was looking into my future on those flights. I still remember the name of the flight attendant who came to me and some other kids flying alone and told us we could ask her for anything we needed. She got down to our level, smiled kindly and introduced herself as Ursula. Two decades later, I was flying Ursula’s route as a flight attendant myself.

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An enjoyable vignette of life with toddlers in the white world of the north. So enjoyed reading that and I can imagine your struggle in the snow with the stroller. I suppose they would have used a kicksleigh in older times? I have a daydream about growing up in a place when I would have used and had my own “skarp” – I think that is the Norsk word for it? Is there a Finnish equivalent?

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I don’t know why sparks have gone out of fashion. Such a great invention. I used to see them all through Norway, great for stability fo older people on ice and for deeper snow in Sweden (in the North). I also saw a penguin statue thing in Esbjerg, Denmark, that little kids hung onto at the town square’s ice skating rink. Sounds similar to the apparatus you mentioned.

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Nowadays everyone rides electrical scooters 😀 Maybe not the best vehicle in slush and snow. Bikes are also popular and you can get winter tires for them. And electric bikes. I think “sparks” need to be reinvented to make the cool kids ride them again!

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These images of snowy Helsinki look so pretty but it is different when you have to get to work/daycare in that weather. So some people stopped and said things to you but didn’t actually offer any help when you were stuck in the snow with the pram?

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I kind of miss that heavy, quiet snow and even the chaotic kind of blowing snow that blocks out everything except what’s right in front of me. I can just picture you with that double pram, and even though I never had twins, I remember so many arduous errands and tasks carried out with heavy babies and toddlers in giant suits in the snow! Like you, I can look back and see those tough days as precious memories now!

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I came here from JT’s link and glad I did – your blizzard photos and memories are warm! My niece used to travel as an unaccompanied minor and so that part near the end I could imagine you on the small, shaky flight-

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What a post – it was as if I was experiencing those moments with you Snow! It is very interesting how we humans force our way through the weather..people in cold countries brave the snow and cold and people in hot countries brave the sun and heat! Your struggle with the pram in the snow reminded me of my younger days riding a bicycle in the hot afternoons to come back from school!

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The photos are perfect – they made me shiver. And the stories are wonderful vignettes of the challenges of real snow. I can’t say I’ve ever experience a blizzard, though I did once cross a snowy mountain pass in a VW 411, with a pathetic excuse for a heater, telling my passenger to let me know if I was heading for the edge of the road because I couldn’t see a thing!

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Kiitos kauniista matkasta talviseen Helsinkiin – ja sydäntä lämmittävistä mummola-muistoista.

En muista milloin kävin viimeksi Helsingin keskustassa, kun toimistopäivinäkin tulee mentyä maksimissaan Vallilaan. Tuli kyllä hyvin vahvasti sellainen tunne että nautin keskustasta enemmän kuvissasi kuin livenä.

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Great images and writing. Business like usual, ha! I can just see you wrangling the extra large stroller in the snow and getting all sorts of reactions. I’m so glad you got the really usual advice as well. Such warm memories of your grandmother as well. Seasonal greetings to you and your now a bit larger Michelin men. 😉

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I’m glad someone was kind enough to advise you about pulling rather than pushing the pram. I like your description of what it’s like to experience a blizzard. There’s a beauty, as your photos demonstrate, and there’s a strange anxiety to them too, as frozen eyeballs demonstrate. We had frigid temps here for a few days at Christmas, but not really a blizzard. Not quite as beautiful as I’d hoped it’d be.

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Wow interesting post and those blizzards are a burden in a way but the good thing it is that the pram was turned around and you were able to pull it through though as hard as it seemed you did it.

Those must have been great memories filled with joys and sadness but I guess that is how memories are.

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