As my feet came out from under me and I started to fall backwards on the front stoop of my house the first thing I noticed was that time had started moving very slowly. My next thought was that this was not a good situation as I saw my unlaced sneakered feet elevate above the rest of me and found myself twisting slightly as my skull approached the waiting hard-brick top step. I didn’t feel panicked but was aware that there was something ridiculous about braining myself first thing in the morning while still in a bathrobe. Astoundingly, my body landed across the steps, as it would turn out, relatively unharmed. My head was the last body part to land and with acute clarity I felt it connect with the rock-hard surface about as gently as imaginable. As I lay there doing a toes to forehead assessment of any physical damage one thought crept through–I should have used more salt!
There are a myriad of realities to living in the snow-belt that is Westchester County north of 287. Better have all-wheel drive. A generator? Not a bad idea. Plow guy seems expensive and wakes your neighbors at 3 a.m. as they’ve communicated through strongly worded notes taped to your door? It’s still better than you shoveling the large wet snow-filled driveway and unwittingly flirting with your first heart-attack. May it only be mild.
The other big figurative snow-balls to contend with are the incessant snow days. In the past when the phone rang at 5 a.m. it was usually serious business. A health scare or worse. Fortunately, those shock-inducing calls were exceedingly rare. However, present day, anytime there is a hint of snow in the forecast you can expect the phone to ring at that same ungodly hour.
At best a two hour delay. Many of these calls result in full, no school, snow days. Which translates to no school for Bella and a day of professional productivity and otherwise being abruptly obliterated by a robo-call.
One morning early last winter the phone rang early and my wife dutifully answered it. I could tell by her expression that this was not going to be a two-hour delay. Outside the snow was steadily wafting downward and absolutely sticking. Ugh. I can’t recall specifically what I wouldn’t be accomplishing that day but I do remember being irritated that the heaven’s and Board of Education were annihilating my day.
Like any modern middle-aged man of responsibility I took my concerns to social media. The Facebook post went like this:
Like most kids I used to long for snow days which seemed exceedingly rare and elusive. The thought of sled-riding, pick-up snow football and a variety of potential misadventures all while not having to go to school made these days unbearably wonderful. Now, cynical and grizzled from life, I dread snow days like a looming medical procedure. There’s some kind of lesson here but I’m too engaged in my irritation to pursue it.
The comments and likes came quickly from friends, people I barely knew in high school and random acquaintances. The overwhelming theme was that I should stop being a snow-grinch and embrace the situation and the serendipitous opportunity of an unplanned day with my family.
So I did.
Laurie, Bella and I bundled up and headed up the cul-de-sac to see what was happening. It wasn’t crazy cold out nor windy so the little neighborhood hike would be not a frozen bummer. The fluffy snow was accumulating on massive pine trees and looked absolutely beautiful. Like a work of art. If you stood still you could hear the snow coming down relentless but gentle.
I did avoid one persnickety neighbor but after that it was like we walked on to the set of “It’s A Wonderful Life” (the happy part) and I was Jimmy Stewart reveling in the beauty of what’s all around me but often unappreciated. There are kids sled-riding. The smell of a burning fire-place and smoke rising from an old stone chimney. We’re hugging neighbors and sincerely wondering why we haven’t seen each other for months. I joined a group pushing out a rear-wheel drive car stuck in the snow with gloved high-fives all around once the tires found firm footing.
As we looped back to our yellow house I couldn’t help but think of the contrast of how I felt before the walk and after. Through the simple act of a winter stroll I remembered the feeling of community that something like a snow day elicits. And, the winters here while challenging are most definitely communally persevered. It’s a long haul from start to finish but we all go through it and come out the other side ready for a beautiful spring.