If you really want to know the weather forecast, ask a school crossing guard.
Last week, I did just that. I had missed the report on the radio and I needed to know whether or not another snowstorm was indeed brewing. Moms around town had started complaining and rolling their eyes skyward, so it seemed like a snow day was imminent. But before I cancelled my plans for the next day’s spin class, confirmation was required.
I headed to the elementary school. There was someone I needed to see.
“Hello there!” Tom, our crossing guard, smiled. He held up his red stop sign so that Zoe and I could get safely over to the other side of the street and collect Andrew.
“So, Tom,” I asked, “whaddaya think? Big storm? Or blown out of proportion?”
“Oh, no! This one’s gonna be a doozy. Accumulations of up to 18 inches!” He reported enthusiastically.
My heart sank. “No hesitation?” I asked. “You’re sure?”
“Oh, I’m sure. You better get ready.” He dropped the sign and signaled the cars to pass. “Have a nice day, now!”
Have a nice day? Was he serious?
How could I have a nice day when I now needed to scratch everything planned for tomorrow and get over to the supermarket for…for whatever people always get before a big storm?
I quickly gathered my wits and my children and off to the market we went. The sky grew more and more ominous by the minute.
It was hard to find parking. The supermarket was crowded with other frantic moms looking to stock up on items as if hibernating for the whole winter, instead of just one day.
I was pretty sure I had milk, but I bought another gallon. Also, I remembered purchasing eggs recently, but better safe than sorry, I thought, adding a carton to the cart.
Where was all the bread? The entire section looked ravaged. I grabbed a pumpernickel because that’s all that was left. No one in my house even eats pumpernickel. But I imagined us spending days cut off from civilization, huddled together under one blanket by the glow of my last remaining Jo Malone candle, saved from starvation by this very loaf of bread. Into the cart it went.
Brownie mix was key. As was pancake batter. I stocked up on microwave popcorn, predicting a movie night in our near future. The deli counter line was long. I’m not sure why “snowstorm” is synonymous with “3/4 of a pound of turkey,” but apparently, it is.
Snowstorms remind me of Superbowl Sunday that way. Throw everything into the cart and head home for overstuffed sandwiches. There is no dieting on these sacred occasions. Anything that can be consumed is.
Now safe at home, Andrew began his Rituals for Invoking the Snow Day Gods. “Three ice cubes flushed down the toilet!” he instructed himself, running from the kitchen to the bathroom. That accomplished, it was time to do the Macarena four times, facing north, east, south and west, directly in front of the refrigerator. He then dashed upstairs to put a spoon under his pillow and a penny on his windowsill.
Second graders know almost as much as crossing guards do about these things. They just rely on different means to the same end.
As I put away the groceries, I couldn’t help but notice that I now had enough milk and eggs to make a soufflé for ten people.
The precipitation hadn’t even begun when the call came in from the district office announcing the cancellation of school for the next day.
“Goody!” My children shouted, moved enough to dance the Macarena once more.
“Movie night!” I called, trying to get into the spirit. “Get your pajamas on and meet me in the sunroom in ten.”
“Zoe, remember to put your pajamas on inside-out,” Andrew instructed as they headed upstairs.
“Okay.” She nodded.
“Why?” I called up after them.
“Dunno,” Zoe confessed.
“Because then we’ll have a snow day! That’s the last thing you have to do before going to bed.”
“But, Andrew, school has already been cancelled for tomorrow,” I reminded him. “You don’t have to conjure any more voodoo.”
“Still,” he shrugged, not taking any chances.
It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.
We awoke the next morning to a world blanketed in white. It was beautiful and serene and my children seemed cherubic in their inside-out pajamas. They helped me make chocolate chip pancakes (two eggs down!) and then played some imaginary games that Andrew came up with.
Eventually we made brownies (using two more eggs) and played a World Championship game of Uno. Then Zoe watched a Disney princess movie while Andrew and I read some Harry Potter.
What are we going to do next? Andrew and Zoe wondered.
The snow was falling heavily, so going outside was not yet an option.
“Uhm…a game of Clue? Wii?” I suggested.
“No,” Zoe said.
“Nuh-uh,” Andrew concurred.
I looked at the clock.
It was only ten in the morning.
How was that even possible? Had the space-time continuum been warped by the snow?
What the heck were we going to do with the rest of this day?
“I want to play Quiddich!” Andrew called.
“I don’t like that game!” Zoe countered.
“Andrew, why don’t you practice piano while Zoe and I apply tattoos to her arms and color her hair with Moxie Girl dye?”
“I don’t want to practice piano right now,” he said. “I’ll do it later.” He flopped dramatically onto the couch and sulked.
“I don’t want tattoos!” Zoe whined. Then she too flopped dramatically onto the couch next to her brother.
They were on the verge of boredom. That, I could handle. It’s the slippery slope from antsy and bored to Let’s Kill Each Other In The Manner of Lord of the Flies that I fear.
I had hoped to sneak up to my office for some quiet in which to write, but for now, it looked like it was time to get cracking.
Eggs, that is.
“Everybody, to the kitchen!” I called, summoning my best impression of Meryl Streep’s impression of Julia Child.
“Why?” They asked.
“We have several soufflés to make!”
“Uch,” they groaned.
“Fine, cupcakes then,” I said in my regular voice.
“Ooo!” They agreed.
So that was a relative success, and I was now down to only 16 eggs. I boiled a bunch for snack later on in the day.
The hours between 11 am and 3 pm dragged on interminably. The romance of the snow day, created the night before, had worn thin.
And then, like magic, the snow stopped. Sun came out. The outside world beckoned.
“Kids!” I cried. “Get your boots and hats and ski pants and thermals and socks and gloves and scarves and sleds and let’s go play in the snow!”
45 minutes later, we were dressed.
“I want to make a snow angel!” Zoe cried.
“I’m going to throw snowballs at Mom,” Andrew declared.
“And I’m going to make a snowman that looks like Tom the crossing guard, decorate him with hard boiled eggs and cupcakes, and hope he has the mystical power to ensure that school reopens tomorrow!” I smiled, chasing them out the door and into the thick snow.
Now, who wants some hot chocolate?