THERE IS something about a late March snowstorm, a gentle finger wagging at us from heaven saying "I'm not finished yet." There is something maddening in the thought that we do not control the seasons, that all our human capital amounts to nothing in the face of the winds and the rising tides and the steel-colored clouds. It is wholly appropriate that such things happen during this week of miracles, when Jews celebrate deliverance and Christians resurrection. It's a wakeup call that life is gloriously unpredictable.
We write our brackets for the Sweet 16 and never expect a sleeping tiger of a school to reach up out of the bottom tier and - on the air gust from a Southwest Philly floater - take up residence at the Big Dance. Expectations are dangerous when dreamers are in the house.
We never think that a man who spoke long and loudly about the sanctity of marriage would be struck off his horse on the way to Cincinnati and hear from the heavens the voice of Rosie O'Donnell telling him that same-sex marriage is a sacrament for the fair-minded, or at least for those who have gay children.
We don't expect that a Casey from Scranton, Senator of Life, Labor and Legal Weapons, would reach down into his Pennsylvania heart and find the courage to defy his native tribesman by saying that gun control is a legitimate goal.
We make it through 20 centuries with the certainty that the pope will cling to his office for a lifetime, chained by duty and devotion to the Rock of Peter. And then, a conscientious shepherd, aware that his body can no longer keep pace with his prodigious mind, says farewell, and a Jesuit - a Jesuit! - comes to the balcony and asks for our blessing.
We are led to believe that the Boy Scouts are resolute and incapable of being bullied into submission by the Taliban of political correctness. But then, they appear to waiver and bow to the L(oud) B(ullies) G(et) T(raction) crowd and say that they might drop their ban on openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders. Or maybe not.
We assume that differences between boys and girls are self-evident, that gender equality does not require identical treatment, that ponytails under football helmets are unfashionable and undesirable. We expect that parents will not exploit their children before television cameras for their own selfish moment in the sun. We are surprised when a wannabe Josephine Flacco is allowed to play because she makes enough noise.
We assume that conservatives will always stand firm against immigrants, pretending to support "legal" immigration while doing everything in their power to eliminate any of the lines that they might try to stand in. And then a Cuban from Florida and a tea-party favorite from Kentucky show the country that some of the strongest voices in favor of comprehensive immigration reform sit on the right side of the aisle.
We are told that liberals are the ones who will stand up for a ban on assault weapons and make sure that the children of Newtown will not become forgotten footnotes. They demonize the NRA and call conservatives all sorts of unflattering names. And then, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says, um, never mind.
We believe that a man who excels in sports is also an excellent human being, whether he wins the Tour de France, the Masters or the World Series. We believe in his narrative of humility and struggle. And then, we are sucker-punched when the truth that was there all along makes itself unavoidably clear.
We ask for a conversation on race, pretend to have open hearts and minds, say that the walls that separate us can be breached with honest words. And then someone makes the mistake of actually starting that dialogue in a magazine article and we are shocked - shocked! - that he could be so racist. And we continue to lament the fact that we just can't have a conversation about race.
We Pennsylvanians believe that never will a drink pass our lips before the benevolent Big Boozer, er, Brother sniffs the vintage and gives us permission. Then, in a move more miraculous than the transformation of water into wine, the House passes a bill making us grownups.
We always assumed that someone who had lived in and enjoyed the benefits of this country for more than 30 years would know how to say "thank you" without needing a Spanish interpreter. And then a truck driver from Passaic wins the lottery and we find out we were wrong. Qué lástima.
Apparently, spring snowstorms are not the only unpredictable things in life.