“O! Wonderful for weight and whiteness!/ . . . O! Still keep covering the street/And sidewalks, cemeteries, even/Our twice-shoveled drive,/And all that is alive.” – Tom Daniels, “Ode to a Blizzard”
They talked of nothing but the snow. At the grocery store checkout, in the line at the bank, waiting to pick up the kids after school. How long it had been snowing, what the forecast said, how there had not been a snowfall like this for so many years.
Tina was tired of all the snow talk. She was tired of the snow. Her kids had thought it magical and exciting for the first day, awhennd they couldn’t wait to run outside and try to make a snowman, try to build a snow fort, pelt each other with snowballs. But, oh! – the wetness of their things when they came in. They didn’t have proper snow gear, only their rain boots, which were uninsulated for the mild Portland climate, jeans that got soaking wet after a few minutes outdoors and were the dickens to try to peel off skinny wet legs when they came in. Sweaters and raincoats kept them warm enough, but really weren’t up to the job. If they’d lived in Minnesota or Nebraska, then maybe they would have been prepared for the snow. Tina shivered at the idea of all-winter snows like this.
Then there were the days off of school they’d have to make up come summer. Not only that, but by only the second day of the blizzard the kids had already gotten bored, and she was a bit frazzled with Nintendo and PlayStation on all the time. She stayed home from work too, but her boss had emailed her the work that she would have done at the office. She should taken had those days off from work as snow days. But her boss, Andy, seemed oblivious, so she had said she would do it.
Getting up from her desk in the spare room, Tina went into the kitchen and started the electric tea kettle. A nice cup of Darjeeling would taste great. She glanced out the kitchen window and saw a couple of sparrows on the bird feeder, chunks of round feathery bodies highlighted against the snowy back yard. The lumpy snowman the kids had made, with lopsided arms made of discarded fir branches, pine-cone eyes, and Jonah’s old ski cap on top, made her smile. Where had that tradition come from, she wondered, the habit of making a snowman in the winter? She’d have to look it up next time she was in front of the Internet with a few spare moments.
“Mom, can we have hot chocolate?” Avery’s eight-year-old voice was still high and reedy, not like his ten-year-old brother Graham’s voice. Graham’s voice was already starting to dip and pitch a bit, presaging adolescence.
“And popcorn, too, Mom -” Graham’s voice came from out in the living room, in front of the TV, playing his favorite video game, Super Smash Brothers. Tina recognized the boom! boom! boom! of the music.
Hot chocolate and popcorn. All she’d come in for was some tea and a break from looking over those spreadsheets for the Atlanta office.
Hot chocolate and popcorn. Tina was on the verge of putting Avery and Graham off, with a “maybe in a couple of hours, I’ve got work to do,” when she suddenly thought of it: hot chocolate and popcorn. Hot chocolate and popcorn. When she was a kid her mom used to make hot chocolate for her and her sister on the stove, heating milk in a saucepan and stirring in a homemade mix of unsweetened cocoa and melted chocolate. Much fuller flavor than the hot water-packet hot chocolate other moms made. And popcorn! – how many TV movies had she and her sister watched when they were kids, curled up on the couch, dipping fingers into a huge stainless steel bowl filled with buttery popcorn? Hot chocolate and popcorn were among the best ingredients of her childhood.
Well. It’d only take a few minutes to start the air popper and heat the milk. The kettle whistled and she put in the Darjeeling leaves, set the tea timer, and turned to the pantry to get out the popcorn kernels.
“Sure,” she told Avery, “let your brother know I’m making popcorn.”
“Sweet!” Avery’s voice shrilled. He raced out to the living room, and she heard his voice say, “Mom says she’ll make hot chocolate. And popcorn!”
“Yeah, I heard.” But Graham’s voice wasn’t biting or annoyed. Tina was glad to hear the kind tone he took with his brother.
She’d have to get back to those spreadsheets soon enough. For a moment, as Tina was measuring out the milk into the saucepan, she fretted about what Andy would say about the delay in her response.
She glanced outside and saw a red-headed woodpecker, head bobbing like a red flag, perched on the side of the old big-leaf maple at the back of the yard. Tap! Tap, tap! went the colorful head. Birds gotta eat too, she thought.
Hmm. Suppose the Internet went out? Yes, it was believable, with the storm. And if the Internet went out, she wouldn’t be able to send or receive email. She could put off the spreadsheets, work on them again when she was back in the office. She could make up the time later, if needed.
She picked up her phone and texted Andy. “We just lost cable,” she typed. “My email’s out. Sorry!”
Andy’s response was surprisingly mild. “No biggie,” his message said. “Everyone’s out but me. I’m thinking of heading home soon.”
Tina smiled. Yeah. Maybe there was something good about a snow day after all.
About this post
Although I am not “Tina” in this post – we have not been snowed in, and I live in Seattle, not Portland – they did just get a lot of snow in Portland (Oregon) in the past few days (10 inches!), and it was quite impressive there. – Take a look at fellow blogger Miriam Hurdle’s post on the Portland snow, where she has family, for some terrific photographs. (Miriam has a great eye for scenic photography.) I also don’t have small children at home any more, but my college-age son really loved the snow that we had a few weeks ago (only a couple of inches) and he went out to build a small, lop-sided, “snow monster.” (Confidentially, I went out and joined him!) And, I have a friend whose boss is not exactly understanding about her workload, so that’s where “Andy” came from …
Inspiration for this post came also from my fellow blogger Anne J., “I think, I say, I do” blog, who wrote that my earlier “Snowy Thoughts” post sounded like it was the background for another story. Anne lives in non-snowy Johannesburg, South Africa, and her blog is a wonderful, sensitive, fiction-and-personal reflections mix of writing. Thanks, Anne!
I was also inspired to write about snow by fellow blogger Robert Pimental, a native of Brazil living in Norway, where her snowy photographs are lovely and picturesque. Brr!
I am continually amazed at the threads in our lives that interweave to engender our creative work. A big thanks to all my blogging colleagues for being part of my inspirational experience!