Thursday, October 28, 2010

We're having a very warm stretch of days in the northeast but, last October, had an early snowfall that I am remembering today. Below, is the column I wrote about it. Note: There's a disparaging remark about Washington, DC and their inability to cope with snow. I think, after last winter, they'll be more prepared!

Snow Day

While puttering in my kitchen today, I glanced out the window and saw that it was snowing steadily. I announced this observation to the four walls in a tone that was worthy of having discovered the missing link in my refrigerator, explaining to the disinterested cats that it was much too early for snow. I gazed at it dreamily for a while with a stupid little smile upon my lips. 

Snow is an annoyance in so many practical ways. There’s shoveling to be done, driving becomes treacherous, and ice--snow’s evil cousin, is never far behind. But there’s something hypnotic and lovely about a snow fall. Today’s was particularly captivating because my petunias were still blooming by the mailbox and poetic ironies were everywhere.

When I was a little girl, there was no Doppler radar. The networks pulled someone off the street, slapped a pointer into his hand and told him to look out the window twice a day. While I am grateful for modern technology’s ability to provide warnings, there was something to be said for rising from bed, aware that the light peeking in between the blinds seemed strangely different and, discovering for oneself, that a blanket of snow had fallen softly and unheralded during the night.

Today the weatherman whip themselves and, by default, us into an absolute frenzy when any sort of inclement weather is expected. But snow is still an event. It’s always beautiful as it falls. It's so tangible…white stuff that actually drops from the sky, piling up, preventing us from doing things we normally do. We can and do control so much, that this is automatically refreshing. It forces us indoors to admire it from our window or pushes us outside with sleds and the primal urge to fling ourselves into it and kick around to make angels wings in the sparkling whiteness.

Charlie was arriving, on the day of our October snow, for a weekend at home and I was as proud of the snow as if I had created it. “Look, Charlie, snow!”  I said with actual smugness and deliberate condescension to his current residence of Washington, DC, a city that curls into the fetal position if so much as a flake hits the pavement. He ignored me but smiled at the flying flakes with the same  little smile I had worn earlier in the kitchen. In fact, the same smile was sprouting on the faces of many as they emerged from the train onto the snowy platform.

When I was a kid in Brooklyn, we had some impressive snow storms. Cars would be buried for days under huge mountains of white. Pedestrians would walk and children would play in the middle of usually busy streets normally reserved for cars and trucks. Snow brought freedom for the kids and occasionally for our mothers who sometimes would help build a snowman. The same little smile I have described would make its’ way to their lips as chores were delayed and cheeks grew pink with happy exertion. Even in the strictest classrooms of my youth, a child would never be scolded for being the first to notice and announce a snowfall—and, yet again, that exact smile would appear on the lips of some of the most rigid school teachers that the New York City Board of Ed had to offer.

On wintry mornings when my boys were little, I would rise before dawn so as to catch the earliest possible word that there would no school. Then, by my sons’ strict orders, I’d stumble into their still-dark bedrooms and whisper the magic words into warm little ears, “It’s a snow day!” I could feel their smiles in the dark as they went back to sleep, certain that the coming day held joys untold. Later they would gather in our woods with friends as I filled the air with curses as I struggled to get up my driveway or de-ice a frozen car door. The boys would scream with horrified laughter, my neighbors would cringe and think awful thoughts about New Yorkers and another snow day would be underway. The kids knew that later there would English muffin pizzas and hot cocoa for all.

Our October snow has melted, the weather is expected to be milder for the coming week but we’ve all had a taste of what lies ahead. It’s making me smile right now.

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