Today is a snow day. The world outside my window is like a snow globe shaken so furiously that the flakes swim chaotically in all directions. Plows struggle in a futile attempt to keep the roads clear. Radio and television anchors read long lists of closures and children snuggle under their covers, languishing in the knowledge that school is cancelled. Snow days. I used to love them.
When I was a kid, we lived at the top of Dye House Hill, not far from the center of town. Snow days were announced by five short blasts of the fire horn precisely at 7AM. It was a joyful sound, signaling freedom from winter classrooms, and announcing to parents that they were in for a day of wet boots and snowsuits.
No matter how much I wanted to go back to sleep on a snow day, I could never do it. I was always too excited to pull on boots and snow pants, and be the first to make footprints in the deep white drifts outside the front door. I would scoop a mitten full of fresh snow into my mouth, and pulling a rusty Flying Saucer behind me, head for the sloping driveway at Columbia Hall.
For a young child, soaring down a hill of fresh snow is akin to flying. There was magic in speeding downhill, nothing but white rushing toward me, splashes of ice freezing my lips and turning my cheeks crimson. At the bottom of the hill I would roll onto my back where I would lie breathless, letting the flakes float from the sky to my face until I rose to climb the hill and prepare for another run. Finally, when fatigue and chill overtook me, I ‘d trudge home again, where I would struggle to pull snow-filled boots from my frozen feet and hang my mittens to drip on the steaming cast iron radiators. My mother would put my cold hands under her arms to warm them, wrapping me in her soft arms and kissing my damp hair. From the safety of my mother’s kitchen, I would watch as the storm gathered strength and covered the streets and houses until the world outside became strangely unfamiliar. When the sun sank, the alabaster drifts turned to blue and I would shudder, glad for the glow created by my mother’s homemade bread, simmering soup and musical laughter. And always, the next day, when at last the storm was over, there would be sun so brilliant it was blinding.
Today is a snow day. The last several weeks were filled with dark, turbulent skies that threatened to toss my siblings and me over and over, like the wind before a blizzard. The winds blew, and in facing the skies, our eyes streamed hot tears, our footing slipped and our chests ached from trying to breathe through the sobs. We clung to each other, desperate to stand against the winds, but the winds came, and with the winds, came the snow. It covered the pavement, covered the dried remains of grass in the front yard, and covered the familiar paths and roadways that led to our normal lives. Nothing is the same. Nothing is as it was. And tonight, as the sun slips below the horizon, the azure shadows threaten to steal what warmth is left in my heart.
But I am my mother’s child. I push away the melancholy and remind myself that it even though it is covered with snow, I know the path home. I know to follow the glow left behind by my mother, to simmer homemade soup on my own stove and to fill our home with laughter. I will wrap my loved ones in my arms, and kiss their heads. I will make our home safe and warm. And tomorrow, when at last the storm is over, there will be sun so brilliant it is blinding.