It’s not often that I am forced to stay home. I can usually find some way to get out and about – but on that particular Monday in mid-December, I couldn’t manage it. I was forced to stay home – because I was without a car and because the weather was so very rainy and cold.
Of course, I started the afternoon rather growly as I realized my lifeline to civilization was going to be in a parking lot at Boeing, and I would be forced to stay at home. I gave up fighting the reality of imprisonment and considered what I might do with this day stretching out interminably in front of me. I felt solidarity with mothers whose children are granted snow days by other authorities. And this got me thinking of snow days of my childhood in South Dakota. The real snow days. In those days, snow days didn’t, and couldn’t, include an impromptu trip to Target or the Mall.
Snow days on the prairie were blowing snow, deepening drifts, and wind with the will and strength of Aesop’s blowhard. In those days, a snow day, especially when it occurred on a school day, was a magical gift – a reprieve, a pause, a stay of execution. Snow days then brought with them a sense of timelessness – no thought of errands, chores, piano lessons, no thought or dread of school the next day, no worry about homework that wasn’t done.
My favorite snow day was one that occurred in fourth grade after an ice storm covered the town, the trees, and the roads with ice so thick nothing was moving – except all the kids in the neighborhood, released from school and chased out of their homes by harried mothers (who’d had other plans for the day, too) wearing their ice skates and racing up and down Duluth Avenue without threat of traffic.
Just a whole day of nothing but playing in the workings of winter til the sun went down. Presence. Peace. Unexpected reprieve from routine. . .
. . . much like the day I had been handed on that Monday. I had a plethora of little things, putsy things, that had accumulated, readily put off for another day in favor of getting out and about as a priority. Those little orphaned activities seemed perfect tasks for the no-escape-from-home day that had just landed in my lap.
By the time the day had run its course, I was humming, feeling satisfied at the done-ness of my task list, looking forward for the return of my beloved from work, and feeling grateful for having enjoyed staying at home. The containment unfolded into a day of space, silence, peace – a respite from the routine, with its own rhythm and speed: an unanticipated gift, something that could not have been scheduled or enjoyed until it happened – just like a snow day.