Snow brought a gift of time

Ouch! It was too bright this morning - more like a summer day when I've slept too long and the high flying sun sends its brilliant shafts of light to drill through my eyelids. The dark lines of the trees outside my bedroom window filtered through the blinds, cross-hatching the sky behind. Why was it so bright so early on a winter morning?

The cat padded warily across the comforter, her feet sinking deep into the down. She burrowed under the covers and made a pincushion of my leg with her claws. I surrendered and climbed out of bed.

Through the windows below the loft, a sparking sea of white amplified the weak rays of a hazy winter sun. I was transported back many years to a time when this sight would have sent me unexpectedly back to bed instead of shouting at me to get up.

In those days, no bed ever felt more luxurious, no covers so warm, no relaxation so complete as when I awoke to a world turned white. With the roads buried in that lovely re- incarnation of water called snow, my son and daughter would whisper the words "snow day" with awe, as if they were describing a priceless treasure, which in a way, they were.

That was a time when they followed the weather forecasts as if their lives depended on it. On most nights, there were no arguments at bedtime. But if the possibility of a snow day loomed, extra time was needed to allow for speculation, to watch one more weather forecast, and even a last check to see if "it" had started yet.

The kids would cautiously open the door and turn on the porch light as if they were afraid they'd scare the snow away. If the light revealed flakes, their pent-up anticipation would be released in little hops of delight. Still, there was never a guarantee that there would be "enough." They always wanted a definitive answer from me. When I would demur, they'd whine, "But what do you think, Mom? What do you think!?"

Come morning, they'd sleep soundly - it wasn't Christmas after all, and this present wasn't guaranteed. I'd set the alarm a little early to hear the news. The list of schools would be read, and I'd wait for the one that started with "V" - always the last to be called.

Tension would mount in me, too. I was a teacher who was always grateful for a day to catch up on papers that needed grading. Extra sleep wouldn't be unwelcome either. I'd alternate between looking out the window to make my own forecast and listening to the radio. Finally, when the list neared its end and our school was announced, I'd crawl in bed with my daughter to give her the good news.

We'd stay there until perhaps an hour or two later when my son would be awakened by a snowplow. He'd joyously bound down the hall to inform us there was no school. We'd humor him, celebrate our good fortune, and savor those warm covers a little longer.

Our free day would be filled with hot chocolate, sledding, and snowmen instead of the discipline of our usual routines. Those were the days when I would buy odd- colored snowsuits - brown or green - so I could spot my own two offspring among all the red and blue bundles rolling in the snow. Long after I was cold and had retreated home, they would continue roaming the backyards of the neighborhood determined not to miss any wintry opportunity.

Eventually there'd be a knock on the door, since mittened hands could not easily turn the knob. I'd be greeted by two sets of eyes swathed in caps and scarves. They'd stand not so patiently as I disassembled their winter costumes.

They were famished since it was way past regular lunchtime. We'd indulge ourselves with grilled-cheese sandwiches and soup. Once they were warm again, we'd sit by the window, looking out at the white that covered the hills, and eat a defiant bowl of ice cream. Soon our free day would end. I called it a free day because that's what it seemed like - an extra day added to our lives that somehow didn't have to be counted.

Since then I've been to Antarctica, where the snow never ends. I've been to Iceland in winter and skied with my daughter in July. Nothing compares to the feeling of that unexpected gift of time that the snow used to bring.

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