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Cahn: ‘This isn’t why I moved down South’

Posted: February 20, 2015 11:32 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2015 1:00 a.m.

During those times when it gets positively frigid here in Kershaw County -- say, 9 degrees when I woke up Friday morning -- I often tell people, “This isn’t why I moved down South.”

I’ve lived “down South” since 1984. That’s when I moved to Memphis to live with my mother and her family after attending Syracuse University in New York for a year and a half and a few months at my Dad’s in Virginia’s Washington, D.C., suburbs.

Now, I moved to Memphis for purely personal reasons having to do with family issues I won’t get into here. Let’s just say I needed to make some changes, and did, even ending up on the Memphis State University (MSU) Dean’s List for my one and only time in the fall 1984 semester.

Let me make clear: winter in Memphis is, distinctly, winter despite being in the South. I first visited the city a couple of Christmases before. My mother and stepfather picked me and my sister up from the airport and drove us through the eastern part of town to their house. On the way, we passed by some new home construction. There were some partially built homes -- just the brick foundations, really -- on grassy lots. It had rained overnight, a freezing rain which coated those grassy lots to the point they looked like you could ice skate on them.

I moved to Memphis permanently in February 1984 and began attending MSU (now the University of Memphis) in the summer. That fall, I learned what Memphis winters are really like.

You’ve heard of lake-effect snow? Folks from Syracuse and beyond know what I’m talking about. Well, Memphis got Mississippi River-effect freezing rain. We’d get river-effect snow, too, but the freezing rain was worse. The entire city would shut down, especially if that freezing rain turned to snow or vice versa. Memphis, a city of more than 600,000, would turn into a bright white ghost town.

I didn’t make my winters any easier when, after graduation in May 1987, I took a job as a radio announcer in the small town of Dahlonega, GA. It’s in the north Georgia mountains, about 45 minutes up Hwy. 19 from Atlanta. For the winter of 1987-88, I put up with mountain snow.

So, I’m crazy, obviously.

So crazy I left there after a year and went back to Memphis where it’s steamy in the summer and ice-cold freezing in the winter.

I earned my masters degree in 1990 and couldn’t find work to save my life. So, back to my mother’s family I went. By then, they had moved to the Midlands of South Carolina and I moved with them.

Finally, I thought, I was truly down South and would escape the horrors of lake-effect, river-effect or mountain precipation.

Ha! The joke’s on me.

I’ve now lived in either Richland, Lexington or Kershaw counties for 25 years and have yet to experience a winter without some form of chilling temperatures, freezing rain or snow fall.

Admittedly, when I first moved to Memphis and again when I moved here, I thought it was outlandishly funny how folks react to the appearance -- or even the threat -- of a single snowflake. Schools and government offices close, businesses start late, normally easy-going residents scramble for the grocery stores.

Come on! I thought, this is nothing!

And I would think such things because I remember waking up to -5 degrees in Syracuse after returning from winter break in January 1983. That was the day, in order to have breakfast, I had to leave my dorm at the top of a snow-covered hill, carefully step-and-slosh down to another building and then pick my way back up when I was done.

You ain’t seen nothin’, I would silently tell the Midlands.

Now, however, even though my sons live very near their school, I can imagine what it would be look like if we were still out in Cassatt where we lived when we first moved into the county. The idea of my boys out at a bus stop at 5:30 in the morning when its 23 degrees below freezing is not something I want to contemplate.

So, thank you, Kershaw County School District for having enough sense to delay schools for a couple of hours most days last week.

Meanwhile, I’m kind of grumpy at trying to keep warm here in my C-I office, a “tower” oscillating heater barely doing anything for me below the knees. All I originally wanted to do this past weekend was huddle under blankets and binge on warm, flaky biscuits and those Criminal Minds episodes I mentioned last week.

What am I supposed to do, move to Florida? (Don’t worry; I’m not especially fond of hurricanes much less the crazy drivers down there.)

Luckily, the weekend forecast called for being a little warmer, although a little wetter. Hopefully, I got one of my supposed-to-be weekly walks in.

Still, this isn’t why I moved down South. I suppose I suffer from a Goldilocks complex: I like things to be not too hot and not too cold. Seventy-five degrees, sunny with a slight breeze is just fine with me. I’m also one of those somewhat OCD-types who believes it should only rain between midnight and 4 a.m. -- I can’t stand being rained on. Weird, I know.

Despite the weather, I’m not sure I can imagine myself living anywhere else anymore. Kershaw County’s been home for a good chunk of my time “down South” and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon.


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