Groundhog’s Day

“Doesn’t cloudy on Groundhog’s Day mean an early spring?” I called to Beth from the kitchen. It was a wet, gray morning. Surely the groundhog would not be seeing his shadow.

Beth looked up from the paper and her breakfast long enough to say yes, that’s what it meant.

It was my second reason to be happy about the weather and it was only seven a.m. A predicted ice storm had failed to materialize and both kids had school. The night before another ice storm had produced only the thinnest coating of ice and Noah had a two-hour delay and June’s school day proceeded as scheduled. This nearly normal three days was a welcome respite from the disruption of the past two weeks when five inches of snow cancelled school for three days in a row last week and something (ice, snow, who remembers?) cancelled it for another day the week before.

I have never been a fan of snow days (in my adult life, that is). Even before I had kids I disliked having my syllabus thrown off by unexpected university closures and once there were kids in the mix, I became even less enthusiastic. Nevertheless, I could still take pleasure in snow once I got over the jolt of a change in plans. I could appreciate its quiet beauty and share the kids’ enthusiasm in sledding and throwing snowballs and making snow angels and snowmen.

Then came last winter. We had so much snow school was cancelled for almost two weeks. Sidewalks were impassable for several weeks after the biggest snow, which made it tough for me to get anywhere, since I don’t drive. We spent a lot of time stuck in the house, getting on each other’s nerves. To add insult to injury, the school district applied and received for a waiver from the state and so the five days we’d gone over our built-in snow days were not made up. I’d been comforting myself with the idea of an extended school year and once that was yanked away I felt as if some important part of the social contract had been violated.

Now that we are up to our (alleged) limit of snow days for the year again, I am all done with snow. In fact, if it didn’t snow at all for the next couple years I don’t think I’d miss it. Unsurprisingly, I have not been a particularly fun snow day mom this year. I encourage the kids to go out and play in it, help them get their snow clothes on and off, time and tally their sled runs from the kitchen window, make hot chocolate, etc., but I stay in the house, and if they don’t feel like going out, I let them stay inside and spend too much time on the Wii. I do read to them and consent to playing Chutes and Ladders or dominoes when requested and when my mom came for a visit last weekend she and I took June on a snowy walk along the creek to the playground. I also bake, so I am not completely inadequate as winter mother.

But this is what I sounded like on Facebook the past week or so:

1/25/11
Steph is not emotionally ready for snow.

1/26/11
Steph is hosting her third play date in as many days, baking coconut-pecan-lemon bars, watching the quickening snow with an increasing sense of desperation and wondering in the back of her head what it would even mean to “win the future.”

1/28/11
Steph’s house looks as if the kids have been home six out of past seven days. Wait, that’s because they have. Too bad her mother’s coming tomorrow and she can’t just ignore it.

1/29/11
Steph, after two days of Beth at home, her mother’s arrival, Thai green curry and baked coconut custard, and a puppet show by N & J, is starting to emerge from her funk. But chances are, if it snows next week, she will slide right back into it.

1/30/11
Steph & crew have gone on a dominoes spree the past few days. Current tally: June, three wins; Steph, Noah & Grandmom: two wins each.

1/31/11
Steph is brewing tea and thinking how to best spend the next two hours and fifteen minutes, just in case it’s the only day the kids go to school this week.

2/1/11
Steph is waiting for the ice, baking apple crisp, listening to NPR’s coverage of Egypt and hoping for the best.

2/2/11
Steph is really happy with that groundhog right now.

And I was happy yesterday. Not only did Punxsutawney Phil (http://www.groundhog.org/) emerge from his hole or his box, or wherever they keep him and see no shadow, it was unseasonably warm. It was supposed to get up to 54 degrees in the afternoon and I think it did. It felt so liberating to walk outside into the balmy air. When we went to Co-op story time I allowed June to wear the purple coat we bought for her at the consignment shop last year. It’s not as warm as the blue and green one she inherited from Noah and usually wears, but she prefers it. I told her at the beginning of the winter she could wear the purple coat on “not so cold days.” It’s been so cold this winter she has barely worn it. I eschewed my winter coats all together and put on a fleece jacket with no scarf or gloves. We both wore boots, of course, and June wore snow pants over her tights to protect her legs from the slushy snow. I was wearing long underwear under my corduroys, but purely out of habit. Once I was outside I realized I didn’t need them.

“The snow is really soft today,” June observed as we walked from the bus stop to the Co-op. She pressed a hand down in it and was delighted at how easily it gave. I could see her individual fingers clearly delineated in the print even though her hand was encased in a mitten. She made more handprints and more. Before we entered the Co-op, I plucked the sodden mittens from her hands and wrung them out onto the parking lot.

Later that morning as we walked to preschool I could hear water everywhere. It dripped from wet tree branches, poured from gutter spouts and slid down the streets in sheets before tumbling into the storm drains. Swathes of grass were emerging here and there and in some lawns we saw standing water an inch deep. June tripped on the sidewalk and fell right into a muddy puddle, drenching her snow pants.

While June was at school, I went out into the yard to fetch something from the garage and I was startled to see sunlight. I looked up and saw patches of blue sky. I felt the sun, ever so faintly, on my face. It felt good.

It was clouding up again when I picked June up from school, but in the parking lot I saw long chalk outlines of the children’s shadows traced in different colors, a groundhog’s day project.

Today is “quite an icy day,” according to June. It’s cold again, in the thirties, and a lot of what was slush yesterday is ice all over again. Nonetheless, I know spring is coming. Maybe early, maybe late, but it will come. We started talking about our garden this morning, what we might plant, where things might go. And at the library I checked out a bilingual book of garden words for June.

But meanwhile, if you want to read gloomy status updates every time the meteorologists predict snow, you know whom to friend.

  • Sister Sara

    um, you sound like a pretty awesome snow day mom to me.

  • Steph

    Lesley adds, in an email, ” We were tracking how shadows move with passage of time. This was the first sunny day in over two weeks. It just happened to be on G.H. day.”

    I thought that might be the pedagogical purpose when I noticed how the shadows don’t line up with the outlines in the upper picture.  But I maintain that Lesley MUST have been influenced by it being groundhog’s day, if only subconsciously, and by the warm weather (note kids with no coats in the lower picture).