Monday, February 3, 2014

Snow Day: Magic or Myth?

When my kids were little snow days began with a kind of magic. A Norman Rockwellian magic full of the promise of snowmen, sledding rosy cheeks and hot chocolate. Even shoveling the snow was a novelty thanks to whatever genius created the kid-size shovel.

Of course, like all magic, there is preparation involved. Layers of clothing must be forced over the head of wiggly children. Snow pants must be found and, with any hope, still fit from last year or be able to be passed down to the next child in the line of succession. Jackets need to be zipped, the farcical and pointless mitten ritual obeyed and hats must be put on and thrown off innumerable times. They are ready, and now must wait while you get ready, which you do in lightening speed before the whining reaches intolerable levels and their sweat bastes them into an inevitable frostbite threat. Time for the magic to begin.

They step out into the sparkling, powdery playland, which of course, must be documented with many photos, seemingly candid, but carefully reshot until the perfect Holiday card shot has been acquired. They fall into the snow, followed by a shared moment of joyous laughter from the snowy mischief, until the snow actually touches the skin between where their mittens end and their jacket begins. Complaints of cold and wet parade out of the rosy cheeks, pleas to go back into the house follow, one mitten and both hats have already been lost and only two minutes have passed.

But wait, children there is more magic.

“I’m cold”

Don’t you want to build a snowman?

“I want to watch Pokemon”

How about a snowball fight?

“(tears) Mommy why’d you hit me in the face with the snow?”

Mommy didn’t mean it, let’s go sledding! You’ll love sledding!

“I want to go inside.”

Sledding first. It’ll be fun. Let’s have some fun! Isn’t this fun!

Somehow you convince them to drag the sled six blocks to the nearest acceptable hill. They are frowning, but you know, you just know their lives will be transformed by the thrill and magic of sledding. A block and a half in, you find yourself carrying both sleds. A block later one of them is on your back. Snow from their boot is falling into your pants, which are not snow pants, because you are a grown up and it didn’t occur to you to buy snow pants. You get to the hill, which is full of other families determined to have fun and they have sledded that hill into a deathtrap of ice and “sled jumps” of exposed roots and rocks.

You go down once with both of them reviewing your life’s regrets and successes as you realize this ride down the hill may be the last thing you ever do as you dodge children, trees and your mounting fatigue. The walk back up the hill seems like a journey out of Lord of the Rings. Once at the top, you do what any responsible parent would, you let them go down by themselves. After the battle of who sits in front and the brief tutorial on steering, you push them off to euphoria or certain death. It goes well until a third of the way down when one falls off, creating another “sled jump” and the other heads directly for a tree. You run down the icy slope, slip several times, only worrying about your dignity for a fleeting moment, you scoop up one and overrun the other just in time to act as a barrier between said “death tree” and your first born. When the magic of that moment is over, you pick yourself up, grab the overpriced sled, carry one child, hold the other one by the jacket and make your way home swallowing the curses you have for the snow and all it’s magical bullshit.

Once inside, the disrobing, if filmed, could win an Oscar for comedy or tragedy depending on the angle and the editing. Once inside, you still can’t let go of the need for magic and memories, so you actually make hot chocolate. You don’t have the mini marshmallows, so you put a couple of big ones in there. Your children, who look at you with pity and disdain, eat the marshmallow, take one sip of the cocoa, complain about the temperature and go watch whatever mythological swill Nickolodeon offers at this time of day. Which, by the way, is only 10:15am.

And you put your head down on the kitchen table and lament the failed magic trick. One more thing you have ruined for your kids.

And then two weeks later it snows again. You take a deep breath of fortitude, determined not to force your own magic down their throats again. And then a little hand pokes you in the head and the little voice attached asks “Mommy, can we go sledding?” 

And the rabbit comes out of the hat again.


  1. I love this - so real and so well-written! One thing I will add to the mix: the day when your kids are no longer little, no longer living "at home" (or rather, their home is no longer yours), when you watch the school closings at the bottom of the screen and say to your partner, "Remember when snow days were important?"