Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow day

When I was a kid, snow days were fairly hard to come by. During the school year, I lived with my parents in Michigan. Folks there don't blanche at the thought of driving in a couple of feet of the white stuff, let alone braving subzero temperatures for months on end. The only way that school was called off was if it was literally impossible for the buses to make it out of the barn. It happened once or twice each winter and oh, how I loved those days. Listening to the radio with my dad in the morning and waiting to hear if my school was one of the ones closed. Eating a leisurely braekfast. Suiting up in more layers than the kid from "A Christmas Story." Playing until I was so cold that I lost feeling in my nose and toes, and then coming inside and waiting for the burning sensation to start as I pressed my fingers to the heating grate.

The very best part of snow days, though, was curling up next to my mom on the couch and listening to her read to me while I drank hot chocolate and she sipped hot tea. My mom wasn't big on reading aloud, and she wasn't overly keen on a lot of cuddling. I have no idea why, but something about snow gave life to all the affection she kept inside every other day of the year. She would absolutely lavish me with love on those cold afternoons, and I basked in it. One winter we read through "The Long Winter." Another, it was "Alive in Wonderland." My mother would hold the book just above my head as I leaned on her lap, fingering the fringe of one of the afghans she had made. The book dipped down to reveal illustrations, then bobbed back up to resume reading. My mother's tea pot--a real, porcelain pot--was snug inside a quilted tea cozy that sat on a huge silver tray that only came out on the most formal occasions. To this day, the smell of orange rind tea takes me back to those afternoons and makes me more homesick than just about anything else.

As an adult, I spend probably more than my fair share of time with my feet tucked under me and children crowded around as I read from the throne that it my couch. I really don't need an excuse to haul out a special book, or the hot chocolate that I buy in huge containers from Costco. But give me a good snow day, boy, and I pull out all the stops. Not only do we hit the sledding hill with a vengence, but we relive that family tradition of reading time, too. We pull out every warm blanket we can find, flip on the gas fireplace, add extra marshmallows to the cocoa and luxuriate in winter. Each of my children has their own special mug, and I drink from one that has each of their names and handprints on it. We don't just stop answering the phone ... we turn it off. Family time is family time, after all!

I'm so grateful that my mother took those opportunities that she did to love me through the coldest patches of winter. And I'm equally glad that I don't have to wait for snow to do it with my own children. But that doesn't mean I appreciate those times any less.

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