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Ghost Town

Dena and Bryan Crawford almost had downtown Flagstaff to themselves Thursday morning as a winter storm dropped heavy snow. The National Weather Service is forecasting up to 30 inches of snow from the storm over two days.

In case you were caught up in a good book for several days, or you were binging on Netflix, curtains drawn, or your name is Van Winkle, let me be the first to share the news.

It snowed last month. I mean, really snowed! And snowed, and snowed and snowed some more.

So open your drapes! What, no snow? That’s right, Rip. Even if you only slept for a week, this being the Southwest, there is little evidence of the three-plus feet of white stuff we got in this storm unless you look at the San Francisco Peaks or the small, under-plowed, shady streets that still offer ankle-twisting joy.

My patio table went from buried under an icy white tower taller than me, to empty of snow just three days after the storm.

Growing up in Wisconsin, we knew that a giant snow storm meant weeks and months of slate gray skies and piles of white-then-gray-then-blackish snow banks. Here, it still amazes me when, after days of warnings to stay off ice-packed roads, we are welcomed back by sunshine and a brilliant azure sky. And snow banks disappearing like the Wicked Witch of the East. (“I’m melting, melting. Aaaah! What a world, what a world!”)

I was fighting the crud during the storm, alternating between sucking cough drops, making soups and, of course, shoveling between coughing fits.

Luckily for me, though, I have the very best neighbors a woman could want. For years, my next-door neighbor has been coming by with his snow blower during the biggest storms. (His wife supplies me with garden-grown vegetables all summer.) But he’s out with an injury, and I knew this storm was up to me.

Hey, I was up to the task. What’s a day or two of shoveling? Hello! A record-breaking storm like this one (35.9 inches in one blustery day) does not equal casual snow tossing. It means several powder-removal sessions daily just to keep ahead of it.

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Enter my other neighbors. I live across the street from an extended family — parents in one house, a grown son and his family next door. Over the years, I’ve watched a parade of children and grandchildren, with little kids turning into mid-sizers, then young adults — as I blinked.

So here they came, crossing the snowy street to help me out. I talked more with the teenage grandson during that storm than I have in a decade. (He was a toddler when we met; now a thoughtful young man.) Now that I officially qualify as a senior citizen (oh how I hate admitting that), I must accept all the help I can get. The fact that I am just six months out from a broken ankle makes me seem older, I’m hoping.

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Even the grandparents, my peers, came to help me finish shoveling one day. (“Mary, aren’t you done yet?” he teased before the two of them joined me.) This after they had shoveled their own property.

Out of all the Flagstaff neighborhoods I’ve lived in (half a dozen in three-plus decades), each has been special, with good neighbors (in one they were elk). But this one takes the cake (or lemon bars, as I bake and deliver a thank-you).

When I was consumed by family and career, I didn’t always take the time to appreciate — or even consider much — those living nearby. The buzz was inside my home, not outside.

I still work, but now that my kids are grown and I live alone I am especially grateful for the people I catch glimpses of every day. We may not be best friends, but we are best neighbors.  A snow storms reminds us of community.

I’m so glad I didn’t Rip Van Winkle this one.

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