Saturday, August 4, 2007

Take a break from summer, enjoy the snow

Last winter I received an email from my son that set my fingers tapping out a Snow Day essay. On this hot, hot, humid, did I mention HOT, August day in Florida, I'm taking a break from hot. I'm calling an official SNOW DAY!!!

Snow Day by Dawn Goldsmith

In my sunny Florida address I relax and forget about snow and cold, reminded only be my son’s emails. He lives in Illinois and sat right in the midst of a recent snow storm.

He normally sends me emails from his work space, but on this day it came from his home computer. He wrote: ““I didn't make it to work this morning. Officially you no longer are allowed to complain about any weather you have down there. We’re supposed to get about 12 inches of snow and high winds with high temperatures in the teens.”

With sunshine on my shoulder and temperatures in the 70s, I shivered and grinned before shouting to my computer screen, “Snow day!”

My son and his wife were safe inside their cozy little house, warm and protected and free from their normally scheduled activities.

The North was blessed with a glorious unexpected day off. A snow day, a reason to forget commitments, homework, jobs, responsibilities and turn to Plan B – hot chocolate and serious snowman construction. Many of my fondest memories swirl around snow days.

These days off should have come with an announcer: “We interrupt your regular programming for a special report.” Actually there was an announcer of sorts. I remember lying as still as could be in a warm, quilt-covered bed with ears strained to hear the weather forecast coming from Mom’s radio in the kitchen below. As soon as I heard my school’s name and the word “closed,” I jumped out of bed and streaked across the room, pulling on warm clothes, imbued with the energy unleashed by those words.

It was a get out of jail card. And best of all, my friends had received the same release.

We couldn’t make it to school for class, but somehow friends and classmates managed to get together. We made plans by phone then hitched rides with our parents and neighbors to congregate at each others houses. We dragged our sleds to Thayer Hill just west of town or took the snow shovels and ice skates to the creek north of town. We would never have willingly worked that hard to clean sidewalks or driveways, but we shoveled the snow off of the ice, dusted off the old tree trunk lying on the creek bank where we sat to pull skates on over two or three pairs of thick socks. We looked more like the Michelin Man in our layers of warm clothes instead of skating divas Dorothy Hamill or Peggy Fleming. Our skates lumbered rather than flew across the ice, but it wasn’t the skating that made us smile. It was the freedom, the spontaneity of the moment.

Excitement snapped in the brisk air on snow days. All of my senses were alive. The clean smell of new snow mingled with anticipation of the unexpected waiting for me. Even my blue collar parents who put work before everything else caught the spirit.

I remember making a snowman with Dad on one of those days when he couldn’t get to the steel mill and schools were closed because twenty foot snow drifts blocked the highways. Mom would tell how she remembered a winter when her father tunneled through the snow from the house to the barn. Then she’d pull out the ingredients for sugar or cowboy cookies and together we’d fill the kitchen with their lush fragrance. As quick as they came from the oven, my brother and I devoured cookies with a cup of hot chocolate or cold milk before heading outside for a snowball fight.

Upon return, Mom made us stand outside while she swept us with a broom from head to knees. We would leave mushy snow trails on the kitchen floor when we came in and took off our boots. We stacked our gloves on the heat register hoping they’d be somewhat dry by the time we warmed up enough to head back outside. Even digging out the sidewalk and driveway turned into fun with snowballs and friendly banter flying through the air.

My son’s email reminded me of the year of his birth. He was safe in my womb when my husband and I traveled to Ohio. Our trip coincided with one of the worst snowstorms of our lives. It was 1978. We were stranded at my parent’s home for a week. Mom welcomed in another young family. They had been snowed in at their mobile home without heat or food. She turned her couch into a bed and a drawer into a crib for their four-month old daughter. Then we all pitched in to fix comfort foods and cookies, taking turns holding the baby and shoveling sidewalks.

The rural mail carrier renewed his title of hero that year. He had served during World War II in the European theater, and during this blizzard he turned his daily route into one act of mercy after another. True to the postman’s motto nothing kept him from his duties. Even when the mail didn’t arrive for him to deliver, he drove those rural roads and checked on each family along his route, rescuing more than a few in his four-wheel drive vehicle.

Volunteer firemen and good Samaritans with snow mobiles visited every member of the township. They delivered food and medicine, fuel and firewood, and some they transported to warmer, safer locations. A few they hurried to the hospital. A neighbor heading to the grocery store would stop to see what we needed or we would do the same for someone else. Gangs of neighbors gathered to dig each others’ cars out and clear sidewalks and driveways. In the midst of fighting for survival, we found time for snowmen, snowballs and snow angels.

A few years later I was the Mom. Another generation of escapees enjoyed unexpected days off and instinctively knew just what to do. I bundled up my two sons for their own snow days and mixed up cookie batter. Their faces glowed with anticipation.

Their generation discovered a sledding location -- Peanut Butter Hill near the fire station. And kids living near the school dragged snow shovels to the playground where they cleared off a space big enough for basketball games. They built snowmen, snow forts, held snow wars with the neighbor kids, each building bigger and better forts and stockpiling snowball ammunition.

Another email arrived a few hours later.

“Maya [their dog] ran around like an idiot already this morning. She loves the snow…. Forecasters predict a really white winter….We had pancakes and Canadian bacon for breakfast, so we're ready to face the day. Once the snow stops, I think we're going to start digging out. We're going to get to work now. But that really only means watching the snow fall.”

1 comment:

Marijke Durning said...

Lovely post. Living in Montreal, we've had our share of snow storms, but the one storm that sticks in my mind for neighbours helping neighbours was our ice storm in 1998.

Sadly, this disaster did cause some deaths, but not as many as might have happened if people hadn't extended their hands and offered their homes to others in need.

Snowstorms, as inconvenient and strong as they can be, can also have a good effect. there's something to be said about being in your home with your family, with all that white all around. As long as we have our power (we heat with electricity or electrical powered oil furnaces here mostly), we can outwit mother nature a good part of the time.