Remember Spring?

“Ah, spring!” I said as I swung my legs out of bed, opened the window, and was hit with a blast of bitter arctic air in the face, exacerbating the dryness about my noShovel in Snowse and mouth.

As a rolling stone gathers no moss, I quickly donned my parka, my bomber’s cap with fake rabbit fur, and my Gore-Tex boots that take two men and a crowbar to lace up, and filled up the mower with gasoline.  In high school chemistry we learned that gasoline’s freezing point is far below that of water and fingertips, and so I was not surprised when the gasoline gushed out all over the lawnmower engine and onto my boots and the garage floor just as it always did, while the layer of snow on our garbage bins remained as pristine as it was when I brought them in from the curb three days ago.

I had often wondered if a lawnmower could blow snow off the lawn as snow blower blows snow off a driveway.  Well let me tell you: it doesn’t.  I had to shut off my poor confused mower while I shoveled the lawn for an hour, revealing the grayish-green grass that resembled the frozen spinach I pick up from the store when it’s my turn to cook dinner.  I don’t think the mower blade could reach the mashed-down grass but the tracks of the mower wheels were just as satisfying to me as on a Sunday afternoon in July.

July…the very word is like a bell.  I go into the backyard, shovel in hand, to hunt for the buried sprinkler that I forgot to recoil somewhere around Labor Day.  After another hour of shoveling I’ve found the sprinkler along with a few mammoth bones and the cork to a champagne bottle that I popped when McDonald’s announced that the McRib was back.

The sprinkler head was fine but I had to take an electric blanket to the hose to unfreeze the water that clogged its passageway.  The hose was fifty feet long but the electric blanket only a foot and half, so I could only do a small section at a time, moving on down the length of the hose, ignoring the strange looks of my neighbors’ kids whose school had evidently remained closed for the day.  But when they saw me turn on the sprinkler they smiled, and went and got their ice skates.

I grabbed a trowel from the garage and began digging in the flower beds.  I’d lent my ice pick out to someone for a Halloween party last year, so I had to hammer the butt of the trowel to drive the metal point into the flower beds so that I could expose enough frozen earth to dig.  After an hour I had two holes dug out, but my hands were so cold and numb that when I tried to open the little paper bag of seeds I jerked it and sent the seeds flying in a cloud of hope over my newly cut frozen spinach lawn.

My work done for the day, I looked up and down my street, at the pockets of snow on the tree branches, and the dirty ice and slush shoved up against the curb, and tendrils of smoke from the chimneys, and the icicles hanging from the gutters.  And somewhere, in the frozen stillness of March, as the snowflakes began to fall again, I heard a little bird begin to sing.

Remember When Snow Was Fun?

Remember when a big snowstorm was fun and exciting?

I do.

The snow was light and fluffy.  The lawn would look like an unblemished layer of pure white frosting.  The trees would have a calming stillness.  But mainly it was the possibility of school being cancelled that gave snow that magical quality.

It would begin the afternoon before.  A rumor would begin to spread about the school.  “Psst.  There’s going to be a big snowstorm, and Lisa smells.  Pass it on.”  It did not matter if it was 70 degrees and sunny; the moment someone said “snow” the air in the hallways and classrooms would get that pre-holiday feeling.  Before a single snowflake had fallen it felt like school had been canceled.

Not once did it occur to us that missing a day of school might cost us useful knowledge.  At that time, there was no useful knowledge.  And it did not even have to be a school day for the magic to work.  Even if it snowed on a Saturday, I would leap out of bed and look out the window and see the piles of pure white snow and say to myself, “How beautiful.  I wonder if school will be canceled on Monday.”

The best was watching the list of closed schools scrolls across the bottom of the television screen.  It was like waiting for the winning lottery numbers.  One of the first schools to be closed in my area was the Cleary School for the Deaf, and I would think about how lucky those kids were to have school canceled.

My school was stingy for some reason.  It always kept us waiting to the bitter end of the list.  With envy I would watch the other names reel by like other people’s luggage at the baggage claim, imagining the students that attended  those schools jumping for joy in their homes, a whole day off from school, a gift from heaven.  And then I think about how I too could be one of those happy students, doing cartwheels in his pajamas, were it not for the lousy administrators in my school, the heartless scoundrels who wanted to rob me of a snow day, the cruel, fun-hating, sadistic…

…And then it would happen.  The name of my school would scroll across the bottom of the screen, and I would know in my heart that my prayers had been answered.

Now, years later, that school long behind me, I perceive snow a little differently.  When I hear that there is going to be snow, I don’t watch the bottom of the television screen or do cartwheels or even bother praying.  Because all I think about is how miserable I’m going to be shoveling the driveway, and how I’m going to be risking my life on treacherous roads just to earn my daily bread.

But when I see the blanket of white pureness on the lawn, and the white mounds hanging off the trees, I still feel a little bit of the old magic, a little bit of wonder, a little bit of my childhood, and it gives me comfort.  That, and the fact that there will be no school buses or teachers on the road.