The Rockwood Files: Life on Ice

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

The kids and I were glued to the television last night as the six o’clock news played. A big ice storm had already begun to move into town, and we could hear tiny ice pellets tapping out a staccato rhythm on the windows. But there were was one big question on everybody’s mind: Would we get a snow day?

The on-the-scene reporter braved bitter winds with microphone in hand, while sand trucks moved slowly behind him. All the while, school and business closings scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Then there it was – proof positive that there would be no school the next day! Oh, happy, happy snow day! Life is good.

The kids did a snow day happy dance in the living room and ran off to celebrate their good fortune. I was nearly as happy as they were, partly because I remember how joyous I was for snow days as a kid, but also because Mother Nature was about to give all of us a much-needed excuse to slow down.

This morning, as a freezing mist fell silently outside, no alarm clocks went off in our house. We stayed in our warm beds until our eyelids opened on their own, like cozy bears in a cave. There were no school clothes laid out and no lunchboxes packed and ready to go. Everybody knew that this was to be an all day pajama day – no shoes or coats allowed.

When we finally wandered out of bed – our hair sticking out in all directions – we decided to skip our usual super-fast breakfast of yogurt, fruit and toast and do something more in keeping with a special snow day. I fried bacon and made pancakes, which the kids promptly drowned in syrup. After breakfast, the only family members who ventured outside were our two old dogs, Holly and E.J. Their legs nearly slid out from under them when they galloped across the backyard deck and down the stairs to the crunchy grass. They visited the nearest tree and quickly returned to the back door, whining to be let in. When we opened the door, they ran inside, shook off the snowy mist and settled back down on their dog beds by the fireplace. They knew exactly where they intended to spend the duration of the year’s first snow day. Five minutes later, they were both fast asleep, dreaming of the kids’ leftover bacon.

While the pajama-clad kids played upstairs, I sat at the kitchen table for a while, looking out at the icy trees and enjoying this feeling of frozen time. I haven’t rushed at all today, haven’t flown out the door with car keys in hand, berating myself for running late. There are no appointments to make, no errands to run that can’t wait, no carpool to drive. For the first time in a long time, our schedule is standing still.

Of course, neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night can stop work via e-mail. The World Wide Web is always buzzing with things to do. But soon even that may fall still and silent. I’m hearing reports of frozen trees crashing into power lines, and one friend just called from her cell phone to tell me she’s in the dark. Our lights have flickered here a few times, and we’ve already heard the loud crack of a few trees succumb to the weight of their icy branches. One of them has crashed loudly into the backyard fence, convincing the dogs that they’d better stay by the fire until things begin to thaw. If our power goes out, too, then even the work waiting for me on my computer will have to be put on ice.

We’re nearly halfway through our first snow day, and things aren’t getting done. The kids are strewing toys all over the place, and the ice storm is mangling some trees. Yet I’m strangely happy and content. I’m watching it all from our warm, safe family cocoon. I have plenty of milk, bread and eggs, and the kids have plenty of fruit roll-ups and video games to last through the storm. It’s the perfect night for chili and cornbread, and I’ve got books to read if the power goes out. I kind of like having a little time to chill out – literally. And I wonder, if this freezing rain keeps falling and the frigid temperatures stay put, if those magic words might scroll across the television screen on tonight’s six o’clock news: Schools Closed. I wouldn’t mind a bit. There’s something to be said for enjoying a few days of life on ice.

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