I think even the most rabid anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-global-warming American would have to agree that we've been experiencing some pretty dramatic weather. This winter, storms seem to sweep through swaths of the country, dropping feet of snow along with freezing rain and sleet. Nasty stuff.
Unless, of course, you're a kid, and the ugly weather means that school has been suspended. Despite whatever misery my father would be facing on his commute to work, despite the plans my mother would have to cancel, for me, nothing beat a snow day.
I couldn't wait to get bundled up and race out into the perfect layer of cold, invigorating white snow. The air was sharper, crisper and cleaner, and stiller. My suburban neighborhood would feel so much like a community as we collectively contended with the curveball nature threw us. And all the kids would be in the street, noses running, cheeks and ears red, fingers tingling.
But snow days exacted a stiff price. They say it's a pivotal point in our development when we discover our parents are human: imperfect, fallible and destructible. Sometimes we learn they're lazy, as well. If you're lazy, one thing you don't want to do is shovel snow.
When I first heard that too much strenuous exercise could result in an overweight smoker having a heart attack, I knew that in my family, at least, I'd be stuck with this unenviable chore. I remember hating it with a passion. I've never been lazy, but I still hated shoveling snow.
Growing up, I didn't live in a big house, but after a large storm, our driveway resembled a runway at O'Hare Airport. Without a snow blower, the job of clearing it was daunting. Like most tasks I assume, I'd throw myself into it with reckless abandon. Snow would be flying like a ticker-tape parade, much of it landing where I had just cleared. It soon became apparent that a short burst of energy and good intentions would not get the job done; I'd have to pace myself, and settle in for a long afternoon of difficult work.
And so, in yet another symbolic way, my childhood drew to a close, as snow days meant achy, shivering afternoons of very hard work. The way I saw it, one of my few genuine pleasures was unceremoniously plucked from my grasp, replaced with family duties. It was the snow day that taught me that despite my expectations, growing up wasn't just about freedom and unlimited possibility. It also was about sacrifice and patience and responsibility.
I started sharing my parents' dismay when the bad weather hit. I guess I was growing up.