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Snow Day!

Posted on 26 January 2011

“When you’re tired of living in New York, you’re tired of living!”

As much as I’d like to attribute this insightful quote to the proper individual, I can’t.  All I remember is that its originator was an octogenarian quoted years ago in New York magazine.  Every once in a while, I trot that quote out of my memory banks and smile, for that elderly gentleman and I are in total agreement.   Given the snow that’s pounded the Tri-State area since the day after Christmas, however, I’m beginning to rethink that sentiment.

I’m not sure exactly when I realized I hated snow. I think that moment coincided with my forced move to Jersey, where I became a homeowner and was beholden to remove the wicked white stuff from my drive and my car, and where I saw it turn quickly on the Jersey highways from a pristine white to a nasty, sooty black. I’d gotten spoiled by the normally terrific job the Department of Sanitation always did in the city (with the glaring exception of the day after Christmas).  I admit it, the snow is getting to me.  Stubborn New Yorker that I am, I hate to bested by something that isn’t human.  And I can’t stop the flakes from falling out of the sky.  So, I need to recapture the wonder I once had, in what seems like a long time ago, for the white stuff … or at least make peace with it.

I started this morning.  For a long moment, I paused in front of my house, captivated by the gently falling snow.  I didn’t curse the weathermen for being a good twelve hours off the mark with this latest storm.  That came later.  Instead, I reveled in the soft, almost miraculous stillness that can only be heard, and felt, with a new snowfall.

By the time I got to work, finding the parking lot unplowed and the snow quickly accumulated into several messy inches, my good mood had degenerated.  I was cussing the meteorologists again creatively, blending English with Italian oaths and gesticulations. A client who’d made an appointment with me braved the elements to keep that appointment, and I wondered about his state of mind.  He probably wondered about mine!

After the client and I had conducted our business, I peered out my window onto the lot to a sight that stilled my cussing tongue.   The lot was an utter mess, the slush crisscrossed with the ruts of tires struggling over the now-freezing snow.   But out in that lot, under the still falling snow, was a little girl.  She was maybe seven years old, all bundled up in winter gear, running alongside of a car maneuvering with difficulty.  Her long dark hair was flying in the wind and although I couldn’t see her face clearly from my window, I knew she was smiling.  In fact, her whole body was smiling.

My immediate thought was, “What idiot would allow his or her child to frolick like that in a lot where cars are slipping and sliding?”  And yet, the little girl’s attitude arrested me.  She was just living in the moment, relishing her snow day away from the rigors of the classroom and the sensation of the flakes falling gently on her skin.  Maybe, in a quieter moment, she studied the flakes, as I did when I was a child.

I was the nemesis of every nun who ever attempted to teach me something.  I never believed what I was taught, simply because the nuns or a textbook told me I should.  I questioned and tested everything.  I had been told that every single snowflake is unique, that no two flakes have the same pattern.  So, one snow day, I donned my dad’s black gloves, stepped outside, and tested what I was sure was another fairy tale.

Against the black ground of the gloves, the flakes bloomed and died almost in the time that it took me to blink.  But I studied every one as it fell, delighted to find that my teachers had been telling the truth!  Each flake was a perfectly and intricately formed pattern, unique unto itself.  A million flakes, maybe more, were falling from the sky.  And yet, God — or perhaps the angels — had taken the time to fashion each flake into perfect bit of wet lace unlike any other.

Maybe there was a message hidden in the flakes.

If something greater than me took the time to tat snowflakes like Victorian women once crafted lace, there must be a message.  Maybe the message is to slow down and be a bit more like the little girl in the parking lot.  Maybe I need to study the flakes, get out there and build a snowman with a carrot nose and an old scarf, or maybe pummel my husband in a snowball fight and laugh my face off.  The truth is, I don’t know how many more snow days I have left on this Earth.  I may as well enjoy them! 

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