When I woke up this morning, I looked out on a slightly foggy morning and a landscape of drab earth tones splotched with dirty white, the remants of what little snow we've had this winter.
When Wauwatosa, the rest of Wisconsin and everybody for a stretch of some 2,000 miles across the Great Plains, the Upper Midwest and the northeast of America woke up on Groundhog Day a year ago, it was a different picture.
The whole world was an ocean of tossing white waves frozen in place, and the ocean was deep.
Since Wauwatosa Patch did not exist at the time, I have only my own memories to go on. Unlike some of my Patch colleagues, I did not go stand at a busy corner taking pictures of struggling drivers or ride along on a snowplow during that ferocious night.
I just hunkered down and went to bed listening to the wind howl.
The storm was considered epic from the moment it formed. It is recorded for posterity as the "Groundhog Day Blizzard." It killed people from the Southern Plains to Nova Scotia. It paralyzed great cities and whole states, and left hundreds of thousands of people without power for days or even weeks.
In Chicago, nearly a thousand drivers were stranded on Lake Shore Drive and had to abandon their cars or be rescued from them.
My nephew in Tulsa, OK, reported that schools were still closed there eight days after the blizzard had passed. Roofs of dozens of buildings had either blown off or collapsed under the weight of snow.
The horror stories were the same from relatives and friends in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. It was an apocryphal storm.
Except, at least, in the 800 block of North 60th Street, Wauwatosa, where it just wasn't that big a deal. In fact, it was quite a lot of fun.
Milwaukee was perhaps the luckiest metropolitan area in the nation, in my estimation. We had long advance warning of what was coming, and plenty of time to prepare. People were advised, strongly, to stay off the roads, and most heeded that advice.
We were equipped. Winter snow emergency preparedness is a matter of course in Wisconsin.
But the luck came in the timing. Hardly a flake of snow had fallen before 6 p.m. Feb. 1, giving everybody who didn't have terribly important business time to get home and batten down.
The snow, which reached 2 feet in depth in Wauwatosa, had stopped by 6 a.m., before most people needed to get anywhere. The 45-mph wind that had piled a lot of that snow in drifts 4, 5, 6 feet high, had died down to a whisper.
I remember opening the door and noticing with great satisfaction and civic gratitude that the street had been neatly plowed. Traffic, not much but a little, was already moving without trouble.
My neighbors were stirring, and soon everyone was out. We early risers attacked our drifted drives the old-fashioned way, with shovels and grunts. Jane, next door, trudged over to say that she couldn't get her snow blower started. If I could get it going, she said, I was welcome to use it.
I spritzed some volatile chemicals into the carburetor and it fired right up. Other engines were roaring to life up and down the street. It soon became a block party and a race among those with machines to see who could help out the most and the fastest.
Snow was soon flying in fountains, and so were shouts and, yes, even laughter. Neighbors who hadn't spoken since autumn got reacquainted standing shoulder-to-shoulder digging into the dominating snowraines left by the snowplows at the end of every driveway.
The neighborly festival ended in about two hours. Those with business went about it. Children with no school set about turning snow into art, rapid downhill transit, projectiles.
Looking out this morning, I saw a thinly clad runner coming down a bare, damp street. The same Volvo in my driveway that was an angel food cake a year ago was shining blue. Sodden leaves stuck to my shoes, and unlike last year's powder, they did not clump off when I stamped my feet.
When I looked back at our family pictures from last year, I felt nostalgic for the Groundhog Day Blizzard and all the blizzards of my youth in northern Iowa. There's something about growing up in the Midwest that gives you a secret longing for those disasters that kindle in you a desire to help out your neighbor, or a stranger, and that, after they have passed, allow you to say, "Oh, we got through it all right."
Somehow, the records being set for warmth this winter, convenient as they make day-to-day living, do not satisfy in the way last Groundhog Day's records did. There was more warmth on my sidewalk then than there is now.
If you have photos to share from last year's snow, add them to this story or post them in our .