A long time ago, in what now seems almost like someone else’s life, I was a 21-year-old rookie high school teacher in a small town north of Atlanta. I taught five different courses—from Georgia History to Comparative Political Systems—and was a “rover,” which meant I had no classroom of my own. All my teaching materials traveled with me on a wheeled cart. I also coached the eighth grade girls’ basketball team, which practiced at 7:00 in the morning in an unheated gym. Sometimes it was so cold the balls wouldn’t bounce.
A day off was nothing but a pipedream.
But on a January morning I’ll never forget, I opened the drapes to discover that the world outside my bedroom window was blanketed in snow. Schools were closed. This almost never happened. I’d been gifted with an entire day to do whatever I wanted. I vowed not to vacuum or cook or grade papers. I wouldn’t work my way through the stack of unread “Time” magazines on my nightstand, though I was woefully behind. Instead, I went back to sleep and then spent most of the rest of the day drinking coffee and gazing out the window in wonder.
I’ve been in love with snow days ever since.
Fast forward forty years. I was living alone for the first time ever. A serious snowfall on top on a serious ice storm had crippled this part of the state. I’d been without electricity in my new-to-me house for a couple of days, surviving thanks to a neighbor who invited me to an extended slumber party in front of her gas logs. I worried about my pipes bursting and my driveway being forever slick and slippery and my cell phone going dead and a whole lot of other scary things, most of which, thankfully, didn’t happen.
So how did I calm myself? By deciding to build a snowman in my front yard.
Fortunately, the snow was perfect for packing. I rolled a beach ball-size base, a basketball-size torso and a volleyball-size head and stacked them up. I shoved two sturdy sticks into the snowman’s sides for arms. I wrapped a ratty red scarf around his neck and put an old straw cowboy hat on his head. Then came the hard part: the face. Luckily, I had a shriveled-up baby carrot that worked for his nose, some atomic fireballs that became a perfect smile, and two big black buttons that were just right for eyes. He was a good snowman and just looking at him lowered my anxiety.
Those memories came flooding back last week, when we were gifted with not one but two real snowfalls. The first snow lay heavy and lovely on the grass and trees but not the pavement, teasing us, perhaps, about what was to come. The second was the real deal, so substantial that Walmart shut down. For hour upon hour the snow fell thick and steady, just as forecasters had predicted, and turned our world into a winter wonderland.
It was even more magical than that long-ago Atlanta snow. Just as I’d done back then, I stayed in bed longer than usual. I brewed a pot of coffee and sat in front of the window, watching birds swarm the feeders. I didn’t do chores. I didn’t watch TV. I thought about but rejected the idea of building a snowman, even though I had carrots and fireballs and big black buttons. I reveled in the stillness and in the luxury of a too-full calendar wiped clean.
Just before sunset, I bundled up, pulled on my boots and took Kamala outside, where I was reminded that few things are cuter than a coal-black dog romping in deep white snow. And that few things are more blessed than a walk in the woods on a snowy day.
(January 15, 2022)