Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snowless winter

It’s been a warm, snowless winter.

And in some ways, that’s not so bad. Last winter was the snowiest winter I could remember, the snowiest winter in fifty years, the snowiest winter on record – I don’t remember how it was defined, but parents of school-aged kids came up with their own term for it: a winter so snowy that even the kids stopped thinking snow days were fun.

Snowbanks that looked more like walls than piles lined the roadway. Plow drivers complained that there was so place left to put the snow.

Not this winter. After one bizarre and unseasonable storm two nights before Halloween, we’ve had just a dusting here, a dusting there. Traces of white on the tree branches now and then, but no sledding, no snowmen. All fall, as I walked along the trails of the state park behind our new house, I thought “These trails will be great for showshoeing,” but my snowshoes remain in the exact same place where I put them when the movers unloaded them last April.

Thre’s a lot less inconvenience to a warm snow-less winter. No scraping sound of the plow driving by before dawn. No clearing snow and ice from the windshield after work. No pestering the kids to shovel a path for the dog, who refuses to go to the bathroom in drifts as high as her stomach.

And we’re certainly saving money on the plowing, or lack thereof.

But I could use a snowy day right about now. Sure, we all romanticize the school cancellations of our childhoods. We all reminisce about long days passed in snowball fights interrupted only for servings to hot chocolate or a fresh batch of cookies from the oven. And we all grow up to learn about a different kind of snow day: the kind when you absolutely have to get to work for a ten o’clock meeting or drive 45 minutes down the icy, blizzarded-in highway for a long-scheduled doctor’s appointment just as the no-school text message arrives from the superintendent’s office.

Yes, we all at some point in adulthood experience a moment of snowstorm-induced stress, after which we wonder what happened to those wonderful stormy days remembered in rosy shades from our youth.

But having no snow has taken us too far to the other extreme. I’m tired of mud. I want to wake to the strange grayish light of snow covering the skylights over the bed. I want to hear the kids cheer when I tell them there’s no school today. I wouldn’t even mind hearing them plead for bacon and waffles, a special breakfast for a special day. (Last year, there were so many “special day” breakfasts on snowdays that I began to worry about my son’s cholesterol level.)

Instead, I woke today to bare ground, bare branches, bare sky. Last winter at this time there were four feet of snow on the ground. We took pictures of the rail fence with the snow reaching the highest rail, of the wooden swing with snow up to its seat, of the kids diving into snowdrifts taller than them, and we dreamed of summer.

This year there’s nothing to wish away, no need to dream of warmer days. And there’s a sense of something remiss in that. Perhaps we need the snowbanks to remind us of beaches, the snowdays to remind us of summer vacation. Without duress, there can be no welcome rush of relief. And as the mushy, mild days roll on, I wonder if we’ll notice when spring arrives.

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