Ice and Sleet as Onslaught of Memory

Ryan Call and Christy Call


Winter’s worst menace to modern families is not the threat of snow but instead the inevitable freezing rain and sleet that falls from the grey skies above one’s split-level home, coating outdoor objects—the patio furniture, the charcoal grill, the playscape in the corner of the backyard—with an icy sheath known to family members as memory glaze. With each family’s overwhelming dependence on electrical power for heating, cooking, communicating, and even entertaining, all actions necessary to the normal functions of a healthy family, the disruptions of a community’s electrical grid during an ice storm can cause widespread hardship and malaise, can stress even the most hardy of family units, and will often rend asunder weaker familial relationships, thus fracturing various memory constructions in each family member. Of course, families can escape the physical effects of a big snowstorm by seeking shelter inside a home, thus providing them better environments in which to deal with the onslaught of memories; however, the chill and discomfort of a house without power in an ice storm makes the pain of familying terrible—nearly unbearable—to experience, for such familying brings with it a variety of memories, some pleasant and others painful, some of which may be lost or purposefully forgotten.

Unlike snowfall, freezing rain occurs when water droplets fall from an above-freezing layer of recollection air aloft through a shallow layer of below-freezing recognition air at the surface of the earth. Upon impact, or shortly thereafter, the now-ready memory droplets again freeze, clinging to all exposed objects, coating them with an icy memory glaze of varying thicknesses, thus mimicking how our own familial backgrounds cling to us, even as we attempt to scrape them off and away. Some family members report having seen actual images of the past in the more reflective of these memory glazes; however, we thankfully cannot confirm this rumor for ourselves. If the layer of cold air near the surface of the earth is quite deep, these memory-filled raindrops freeze as they descend and form little ice pellets, known technically as sleet or, less formally, as regret. These ice pellets are transparent globular or irregular grains of ice that make a light tapping sound as they strike the earth, contrary to the silent accumulation of snow. Thus, sleet becomes a kind of auditory catalyst for the churning up of familial memory: the tap of our mother’s finger on our forehead, for instance, or the sound the sister makes as she anxiously picks her nails, or the light click of our father’s key in the lock as he returns home from yet another transcontinental flight. The interior of an ice pellet might be part liquid and, in such cases, the pellet will break as it hits a hard surface; this is called tear-dropping, and when observed by family members in isolation can result in bouts of silent weeping. Sometimes both freezing rain and sleet occur during one storm period, thus overwhelming the family member or members with the unfortunate noise and imagery of memory, the memory of the sister punching the neighborhood boy in the stomach, the memory of the brother setting his sweater afire, the memory of eating rotten eggs on a bet, the memory of making her best friend cry, the memory of our father's receding hairline, the memory of our mother's wrinkled hands, the memory of drawing on the furniture and the walls, the memory of building pillow forts, the memory of stepping barefoot upon a twisted nail, the memory of blood, of yellow jackets, of swimming, of blackberries and child locks, of mood rings and ice storms.



A glaze storm occurs in certain sections of our country, perhaps most often in the Northeast, though such storms have been witnessed in the Southeast when the perfect conditions arise. We have found that the families that exist in both of these areas of the country suffer glaze storms winterly, the yearly effects of which lead to a kind of shiny, silvery accumulation in each family member’s recollection of those early years of familial life: these effects apply differently to the father, the mother, the sister, the brother. Otherwise known as a silver thaw, especially in the Northeast, these storms occur when freezing rain adheres to any and all outdoor objects, despite whatever precautions the children may have taken to ward against such injustice: tarps, beach towels, hastily constructed lean-tos. Certainly, yes, such storms cause great damage and inconvenience throughout the affected regions, and yet, at the same time these storms offer us the greatest and most spectacular of scenes: when the sunlight shifts down through the atmosphere and strikes these icy surfaces, the millions of crystals shimmer throughout the yard, the ice-coated trees glisten, the bushes and grass blades and sidewalks seem to glow brightly, and the brother and sister cannot help but sit upright in their beds to overlook the great white expanse beyond their windows, for such an expanse offers some hopeful landscape, one that vastly differs from the familial landscape within the heated environs of the house. Families that experience such a glaze storm cannot move beyond certain key events in their familial history, and members of these affected families often require years of therapy to recover their lives and travel out into the world as healthy and functional individuals.