When I peeked out the bedroom window this morning, my first thought was, "It really happened!" Somehow--perhaps because I am a Hoosier by dint of longest residency, if not by birth--I always think that snowstorms are going to be less rough than they're predicted to be. I half expected the forecasts to turn out to be not much besides hysteria. But instead, there was the snow, swiftly and silently filling in all those gaps in my yard's old snow, vanishing the animal tracks, covering over my footsteps to the front door. By the time I left the house a couple of hours later, the world was a smoothed white once more. (For comparison's sake, I'm giving you the fire hydrant you saw on Sunday.)
Things (including my critique) started being cancelled by early afternoon. Sometime around mid-afternoon, the quiet of the snow's fall gave way to the steady hiss of falling ice. It was at about this time that I decided to walk to the post office and perhaps even take some pictures. In pursuit of this garage, I walked off the edge of the road, onto a college lawn, only to find--as I nearly fell into the snow--that the edge of the road wasn't where I thought it was and that the snow was far deeper than I thought. I remain thankful, as ever, for my yellow rainboots.
Making my way home through the snow, I thought about my favorite snow days. I don't remember school's having been cancelled because of snow when we lived in Buffalo. It may have been, but those occasions didn't stick with me. Not long after we moved to southern Indiana, though, my mother and I went down to the end of our long gravel driveway so that I could catch the school bus. We stood and waited and waited and waited. It had snowed two or three inches overnight; it didn't even cross our minds that such a snowfall could occasion a school closing. But then a woman pulled up in her car and asked whether we were waiting for the school bus. As indeed we were. She filled us in, and we headed back up to the house.
The single best thing about that house, in the winter, was its driveway, a quarter-mile stretch of gravel that curved up a hill. My brother and I became masters of our red plastic sled (the same sled I once lost for two weeks under a swift and sudden snowfall in Buffalo) on that hill. Our favorite trick was to lie on our stomachs--me on the sled, my brother on my back--and to sled head-first down the driveway. We always sledded in the ruts where our parents' cars had cleared out the gravel, since the friction was less extreme on the less graveled parts of the driveway. We knew how to steer around the curves, how to keep going down the entire driveway until we reached the level straightaway that stretched out for a small distance before meeting the road. We even knew just when to turn the sled aside if we wanted to hit the patch of grass that formed a mini-yard in front of our woods, down by the road. (As I write, that grassy space comes back to my mind, as do the streams that bordered it. That small lawn filled with violets in the spring. We scavenged for crayfish and minnows and fine stones in that stream, which had exceptionally good sand formations in the spring and summer.)
Most of our snow days in that town run together in my mind, but I recall one in fourth grade particularly well. Our neighbors across the street (which, given the lay of that rural landscape, meant our neighbors a half-mile away) had a son who sat near me in class. As is my way, I became smitten with him early in the year and, with absolutely no encouragement, remained so for most of the year. His parents had had a sledding party for their kids one night--and a fabulous party that was; they had a pond in their backyard, and it was frozen solid, so we spent the evening sledding down a small rise and sliding out onto the ice. The next day, we didn't have school. My classmate and I somehow decided to go out tobogganing together, along with my younger brother and another person from our class. And somehow our parents let us head off into the afternoon, we three eight-year-old children (and my five-year-old brother). We walked through neighborhood streets until we reached the elementary school, and we tobogganed there for hours before walking home. My mother packed a bag of those miniature Hershey's bars so that we'd have chocolate if we wanted a snack. By the time we reached home, we were mightily tired and probably not a little snow-wet. I imagine that my mother made us hot chocolate, as she generally did when we'd been out getting wet and cold.
The next day, my classmate (not the one who lived across the street; the other one) went into the hospital with kidney failure. To this day, I find myself wondering whether our sledding expedition contributed to his illness. He got better and, as far as I know, is still around somewhere, though I haven't seen him since junior high.
And then there was the snow day that wasn't one. I stayed in Ithaca for Christmas in 2002, because of the impending Academic Mayhem, which was in New York City that year. It had seemed like a silly idea to go further away from the Mayhem's location, only to fly back. (As it turned out, it didn't really matter that I was there, anyway.) And so I took the bus from Ithaca to Manhattan on December 27. Which left my first Christmas away from home.
By the opening of December 25, snow began to fall. By 2 a.m., it was falling hard. My dear Chicagoan friends stopped by the house on their way home from taking care of someone's pets, and we decided to get our Christmas morning meal from the 24-hour Shortstop Deli down the road. And so we did, stumbling out into the thickening snow and then stumbling back with our enormous subs. Sometime around 3 a.m., one of us said, "Look how adult we are." We started to talk about alternate families, the families we adopt along our ways through life. I did feel very familial and warm. I also missed my parents and brother more than I let on. By daybreak, the snow was still falling. By the time I strolled out (in my yellow rainboots) to some friends' house for a Christmas dinner of vegetable pie by candlelight, so much snow had fallen, and so few people were out and about, that it was far easier for me to walk down the middle of the street, bearing a plate of the brownies with raisins and walnuts I'd made with my new Kitchenaid stand mixer (a gift from my parents, who were also missing me and wanted me to know that they were thinking about how I usually make Christmas pancakes in their Kitchenaid mixer).
As I write this story, I find myself wondering how it is that I had the ingredients for brownies in the house. I hadn't known I was getting the mixer; there would have been no reason for me to have those ingredients lying around. I must have planned to make brownies at some earlier point that month (or that year) and just not have gotten around to it. I'm sure that I made the brownies that day, because I then carried many of them off to the Mayhem, feeding them to anyone who needed chocolate or just attention.
Others, others come to mind. You don't need to hear about them, and I suspect I'll write more about snow days tomorrow, since today brought back to my mind what my mother taught me about weather when I was little: it always gets worst right around Valentine's Day. For now, know how dense our snow is tonight, packed down by the sleet that fell for nearly seven hours. And how quiet the village.