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December 2009

Snow Stormed

It's easy though to hate the snow living in the middle of a city - an irrational panic runs up the spine of anyone worried that the stores (all eight billion of them) will somehow magically run out of food or that somehow the snow will be so heavy that we'll be trapped.

But being 'trapped' at home is it's own kind of joy. Back in Wisconsin we lived on a country road near a highway but a country road nonetheless at the edge of a big pine forest, near to the Wisconsin River. A snow storm warning would hit and the race would be on to get to the store and get food (and treats - it's amazing how it was OK to get anything and everything we wanted when there was a threat of being homebound, and we'd always of course get too much) to see us through a couple days... because it was not unheard of that the plow wouldn't get to us immediately and that we would have to shovel out our own driveway. It would be a snow day (it always seemed like a waste when we'd have a snow storm on the weekend) and all the neighborhood kids would get their sleds and go to the hill above Redmond's pond.

The Redmond family had a nursery and at some point had decided to create a little pond back in the middle of their vast property. I wasn't around when it was made but it seemed as though the family had dug a big hole in the middle of a field but only the very bottom of it had been filled with water. It wasn't deep enough for fish or clean enough to swim in, so it just became this big hole with some water in it. We cleverly dubbed it "Redmond's Pond" (a creative lot we were) and enjoyed sledding down the sides of the hills during the winter.

When you're six or eight or ten, you don't give much thought to much else on a snow day other than your primary goal is that you've got to put on longjohns, thick socks, three layers on top (undershirt, shirt and sweater), jeans, a heavy coat, mittens, a hat, scarf and rubber boots to put on before you venture outside to meet the other kids in the neighborhood for a day of sledding.

The hill wasn't huge but we didn't really care. We cared about how many times we could sled down and how fast we could go. We didn't care about how red our faces would get, or how wet our clothes were or if we were hungry or had to go to the bathroom; we just cared about the sledding. We would hardly notice the sun's descent from up on high to low to the ground and it was only because we did eventually notice that we needed to eat or that we couldn't feel our fingers anymore, that we figured we ought to go home.

My mom would know I was home by the pile of wet and frozen clothes heaped in the back hall knowing I'd come back to once I'd warmed up a bit. There was nothing better than getting into something dry and having dinner or hot chocolate after all that play time.

When I first moved to New York in the mid 90s the winters were snowy. There was one fantastic blizzard in early 1995 that was pretty spectacular. There was no sledding to be done (although I suppose I could have gone up to Central Park) but I walked out onto the street, where I lived at 17th and Irving and, because the streets were closed to traffic, I could stand in the middle of an intersection without worry.

The usually unbearably noisy city was muffled, silenced by a blanket of frozen liquid falling from the sky. It's as if each flake had been infused with a little Prozac in order to calm the masses and give us all a gentle snow day. The quiet was comforting, not eerie as one might expect. A woman passed by and noticed my smile saying "it's so quiet" and for that brief moment I didn't care that my face was red or that my clothes were wet or that I needed to get back to my work at home or that I was hungry or anything. I embraced the snow storm and enjoyed it's unexpected benefit.