Michelle Martin

Snow days

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Teresa’s school called a snow day last week.

Well, not really a snow day, because in this weird pandemic time when nothing is like it was, school, work and home have blended in ways that maybe they haven’t since the Industrial Revolution. But her school did announce that all students — those who attend in-person as well as those who are usually e-learners — would spend the day learning from home. Because the principal made the call before school got out the day before, all students were able to take their tablets or Chromebooks home to make sure they had a way to connect.

But classes or not, it was still a snow day because it snowed. It snowed deep and heavy, leaving a damp, packable blanket covering the sidewalk and backyard.

Since Teresa’s teacher gave the whole class a little extra time for recess, and because we’d already finished shoveling, we went outside and had time to build a 3-foot snowman the traditional way, rolling balls of snow on the ground and then stacking them up. We cut sticks from the bushes for arms, found charcoal for eyes and fetched a carrot from the kitchen for a nose. An old baseball cap, a scarf, and this year’s must-have accessory, a disposable mask, completed the look.

Afterward, I made Teresa pose next to our snowman for a photo. There are so many lasts that never get noticed as children grow up; with her turning 11, and with our weather changing, I don’t know how many more snowmen I can prevail on her to build with me.

After school, she bundled up in boots and snow pants again, this time to build a “sled hill” with snow in the backyard. The hill wasn’t much taller than the snowman once we piled it up and tamped it down, but pouring a little water on it to freeze overnight meant she could slide all the way to the fence for a few days.

And once that few days were up and the sled hill started to crumble and the twigs holding the snowman’s mask fell out under the warmth of the late January sun, Mother Nature came through again, dumping a fresh 9 inches or so.

The Sunday morning shovel out might have left me with blisters on my hands, even with gloves, and stiff muscles, but it was deeply satisfying. Satisfying because it came with gratitude to our neighbor, who cleared the alley and part of our front walk before we got outside, and with pride in our son, who after shoveling put on his shoes and coat to go back out and help another neighbor who looked like he was stuck. (Spoiler: He wasn’t. He just moved his vehicle to block a section of the alley while he cleared it.)

Snow can bring out the best in us, as neighbors help neighbors and everyone, for a little while at least, feels like we’re all in this together.

Plus, pancakes for breakfast just taste better when you’ve been working outside in the cold first.


  • family life