In case you’ve missed it, it’s snowing in the east.
I remember snow days. I remember they were few and far between just outside Chicago when I was a kid, in fact there would have to be more than a foot on the ground for school to be called. We’d wait patiently for Ray Rayner to rattle off our school at 7am and when he did, he was the local hero, and when he didn’t—we called for his show to be cancelled and vowed to hold Cuddly Dudley hostage until he came through.
School kids in suburban Illinois learned early how to navigate three foot drifts—in skirts, in order to board the 7:40am bus that showed up at 7:39am, even with a fresh 12 inches having fallen between dinner the night before and six a.m. It built character.
Then we moved to Virginia.
All grown up and with three daughters of my own, we’d watch the five o’clock news the night before an anticipated 3″ dusting and our school would be among those listed as closed. The girls would cheer and head to the basement to dig out sleds, boots, snow pants, hats, gloves and scarves.
Sometimes the three inches came, sometimes not, but the trip to the sled hill, the beauty of untouched white and the breathless climbs up the sled-hill after a good run were memories in the making. Memories we could pocket—and keep.
Today they got upwards of three feet. We only had a few that were close to that during the girls’ school years in Virginia, and they were magical. Our street became an army of shovelers helping one another, pushing cars for one more trip to the grocery store and showing the kids how to build a real igloo, one they vowed to spend the night in, but never got the chance. Crackling fires, warm beds and hot chocolate trumped a night in ice.
I remember one winter storm in 2010 when I donned my boots and gloves to head out to shovel the walk after a 15 inch dump of the white stuff. I was single again and the girls were grown and their interests had shifted from snow forts to friends and boys, so only dog paws across our yard indicated that anyone was home. I opened the front door and there were six men with snowblowers and shovels in our driveway. Six men who saw to it that me and my daughters were taken care of.
Snow angels had a whole new meaning from then on.
We watched today from the opposite coast and found the excitement from the east had spread all the way here. It wasn’t memories of wet foyer floors, boots in the middle of the hall or dozens of trips to the dryer to toss in wet clothes to be ready for the next venture outdoors—it was thoughts of fun and beauty, of crimson Cardinals and bright Bluejays on the back deck taking advantage of the bread crumbs we tossed to them—and sharing with the less vibrant, but equally hungry sparrows. It was thoughts of mulled wine and hot cocoa, tomato soup and grilled cheese lunches to nourish the young creators of snow families and sturdy forts. It was thoughts of neighbors and friends who didn’t go to work, but stayed home and played with their families, and the world didn’t end because of it.
My forever friend, who still lives in Chicago, once told me that Californians rob themselves of the joy of emerging from winter. That surviving storms was essential in building character. She told me this as we took in the shores of California during her visit to see me and remind me who I am. I find her statement to be true and I’m glad I had my share of storms, that showed themselves in many forms.
Storms do build character.
I felt a little guilty today, we live at the beach and it was chilly today, which we mentioned more than once. I thought of why warmer climates are necessary for some; the homeless, the elderly—I thought about the homeless and elderly back east, this type of storm isn’t fun, it’s life threatening, but I also thought of those who extended a meal, or a hand, or a couch, or a clear driveway—proving once again, that storms build character.
I remember waking up to the perfect snowday, where the children slept late and the flakes fell silently. Chimneys spewed smoke that melted the rooftops and made me certain the occupants were warm and safe.
A perfect snowday.
The inevitable will happen, cabin fever will set in, the thaw will come, the roads will be messy and the empty fridge will require a good trip to Costco—but for now, it’s magic.
Good for the soul kind of magic—the kind you put in your pocket and keep.