Warm thoughts

Author: Jack Hefferon '14

A quick look at the calendar confirms that, yes, it is April 15. Tax Day. Major League Baseball’s opening day was last month, as was the first official day of spring. The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams here have been playing outside since February. And the football team concluded its spring practice on Saturday with the annual Blue-Gold game, where a high of 77 degrees coaxed out a crowd of nearly 28,000 to enjoy the day.

That frantic reality check was necessary last night as, after a long hovering permacloud, the snow rolled in to South Bend once again. Calling my mom on my dorm-room couch, I glumly reported the news that the sky was once again falling.

But from far-off, sunny New York, she offered a positive perspective on the precipitation.

“This is probably the last time you’ll be able to look out and see the Dome covered in snow from your bedroom window,” she said.

“That’s sad,” the senior in me, now with 10 days of classes remaining, immediately thought.

“It doesn’t have to be,” she replied.

That was my happy focus the next morning as I walked out into the bitter morning and admired that dome dutifully, but sincerely. I stood at the front door of Carroll Hall and gazed first at the skyline of the Dome, Basilica and Library towering over the trees and Saint Mary’s Lake, and then at the glow of the Grotto’s candles and those gathered there to pray. I paused for a moment to cherish the snow-dusted view, trying my best to take a mental picture that would last through the coming summer months. But my eyes caught in the foreground a snow-covered volleyball court that had, just a few days before, seen dozens of my fellow Vermin in shorts and tank tops and bare feet and sunscreen diving around in its freshly raked sand.

From there, I walked down the steps and out to the parking lot and my car. One last snowfall – to be cherished, I reminded myself – covered the entirety of the windshield. I searched under and behind the seats in all the usual places for my ice-scraper, only to remember that it had been tossed in the trunk that weekend to free some extra legroom in the back seat. The offender, my friend Conor, did so with a comment to the effect of, “Well, we won’t be needing this anymore!”

Mother Nature is a jealous mistress. One should know better than to provoke her so clumsily.

Exiting my car on the other side of campus, I was immediately slapped in the face by a gust of wind. Any hope I had gathered during the heated ride over was gone. In the first stage of grief – denial – I had refused to wear a coat, a move that took eight seconds to trigger regret. I pretended it was October, six long months ago, when flurries were a new, glorious novelty, a fairy dust that made every nook of campus perfectly picturesque. It was no use. The walk to St. Liam’s was an ab workout, as I held my breath, clenched my muscles and counted the seconds until a warm salvation. Those I passed with the dress-by-the-calendar audacity to wear shorts on the 20-degree morning seemed to be having similar doubts in their futile resolve.

Arriving at St. Liam’s Health Center afforded a glorious break from the cold, and after a brief wait I was called back to the check-in nurse. I was there to get some stitches out of my lip (an injury also related to sand volleyball from the prior week), but protocol apparently mandated that my temperature be checked as well. The nurse stuck the thermometer in my ear once, then a second time, before muttering that it couldn’t possibly be right.

“What’s it saying?” I asked.

“It has you at 94.”

Ninety-four degrees, which the Internet tells me borders on hypothermia. Hypothermia on April 15th. Dismayed, I left St. Liam’s and took one last view of the snow-covered Dome. From behind Main Building, it seemed Mary had turned her back on me in my time of need. Her flowing garments looked pretty warm, too. Our Mother and my mother grudgingly satisfied, I turned and headed for work at Grace Hall.

Mom, I tried to cherish one last oppressive wintery day on campus. Really. But with this latest cold affront marking the end of a winter that has consumed nearly all of the academic year, I just wasn’t able to grin and bear it, my optimism somewhere next to my snow pants in the back of the closet. Besides, I doubt I’ll have to miss the cold and wind when I move on from Notre Dame to the next chapter of my life in tropical…Pittsburgh.

And hey, wouldn’t you know it, there are flurries in the forecast for tomorrow as well, giving me one last chance to revel in some South Bend snow. Since your optimism wasn’t enough to keep me warm on a cold winter’s morning, maybe I’ll take your advice and try wearing that jacket instead.

Jack Hefferon is this magazine’s 2014 spring intern.