Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Icing on the cake (or at least the sidewalk)

On this snow day, my son is sprawled on a chair that lends itself to sprawling. In one hand he holds the remote for the TV; in the other he holds his Game Boy. I look closely, seeing neither a pair of mittens nor a sled within reach. He has yet to ask me for a carrot, or a stovepipe hat, or bits of coal that could double as buttons.

I walk by him, and oh-so-lovingly say, "Go make a snowman."

He is still in his PJs, hours after the automated phone call from his school told us classes were cancelled, hours after he went back to sleep and woke up again, hours after he ate his first bowl of cereal. He has about as much intention of going outside as he does cleaning his room, or getting dressed, or reading for pleasure.

Not that I particularly blame him. The snow is blowing parallel to the ground, and when I opened the door to let the dog out, I felt the first stages of frostbite. Someone on the radio described the effect of the snow plus wind as "feeling like tiny arrows on your skin."

Admittedly, I know this first-hand, having been outside and (I'm almost embarrassed to add) gone for a run. Very very slow, but a run nonetheless.

I do wonder though, when did snow days stop being snowman days? Remember the magic of waking up and your feet are cold when they touch the floor? You look outside and see the slightest whisper of snow on the lawn and have the teeniest of flashes thinking....what if? You're shivering a little -- with cold or optimistic anticipation, who knows?

You smell the familiar smell of almost-burned toast and go into the kitchen to eat your oatmeal. The radio is on and the announcer is calling out the school closings. They're in alphabetical order, and if you never paid attention to your ABCs, you can bet you do right now. Then you hear it. Your school. Closed. All day long. You run into the living room and the good news is confirmed at the bottom of the TV screen.

You throw on your itchy warm clothes, call your friend two doors down and meet her in the front yard of the house between each of yours. You're freezing, but laughing like hyenas and trying to gather enough snow in your wet mittens to make a snowball to push down her turtleneck sweater.

At noon, you burn the roof of your mouth gulping Campbell's tomato soup and wolfing down grilled-cheese sandwiches. You rush back outside, and though there's hardly any accumulation, you snatch up what snow you can -- practically as it drops from the sky -- determined to build a snowman. One that wobbles on the brown grass, one that will be gone by this time tomorrow.

Months pass, then years then decades. Here I am in my kitchen, with no intention of going outside again today. I can look out the window, though, and still see that brown-flecked snowman. I turn my head and -- still in the den, still sprawled on the chair -- see my pajama-clad son, now on his belly with his computer in front of him. 

He's doing whatever he wants to do today, just as my friend and I did years and years ago. A snow day will always be a snow day -- always magical, always remembered -- even if you never step foot outside.