You don’t expect a blizzard to strike Columbia, SC, but that’s pretty much what happened Tuesday night. The temperatures plunged below freezing. Sleet followed by snow started falling at levels we only see every decade or so. Within a few hours the Midlands came to a complete standstill. Traffic couldn’t move. People stayed inside. Everything was battened down as though a hurricane was blowing through.
By yesterday morning, though, people came out to play. We get this kind of weather so seldom that there’s a holiday feel to it, and most of us couldn’t wait to get out of the house.
Snow days aren’t just a reprieve for school children. Adults love them, too. They’re a gift—all the more treasured because they’re so unexpected. Meetings, deadlines and conferences are put on hold while you put on warm clothes and go play outside. Dads load their children into laundry baskets and push them downhill. Grown men pull each other on skis with their cars. Moms build snowmen.
Yesterday even my dog got into the act. He laid the side of his head on the ground with his hind quarters up in the air then ran full tilt through every drift he could find, throwing snow to the side like a furry snow plow. Why not?
Pam pulled out the sleigh she’s carried around for all thirty years of our marriage as some sort of tribute to her childhood. She waxed the bottom with a candle then handed it to me to see if it still worked. It did—sort of. I took it to the street in front of our house and figured the slope there was enough to make the thing work. I laid down on it and got ready for a rapid descent into my neighbor’s yard at the bottom of the hill. Pam, of course, was filming the whole thing on her phone. Anyway, it didn’t go too well. I had to push myself along in order to get any momentum at all and finally gave up when I sank both into the slush on the side of the road and into Pam’s gales of laughter.
We got cold—as most people did—and went back inside to warm up. The weather grew worse so we decided to stay in; and as the day wore on, boredom set in. At one point yesterday I found myself watching reruns of “Miami Vice” while reading a Jack Reacher novel while also planning dinner while also thinking of how soon I could take the dog for another walk. Judging from facebook traffic, we weren’t the only ones with cabin fever.
At any rate, our power stayed on and we were able to spend a good evening cooking and hanging out.
So here’s what I learned from the Blizzard of ’14:
- Whatever salaries SCE&G and other utility employees make, it’s not enough. They were out in brutal weather yesterday making sure the rest of us had power and heat. The same should be said for all the law enforcement people, health professionals and those committed people who run homeless shelters, making sure people without resources are warm and fed. I’m grateful for all of them.
- Days when you can just hang out with people you love–without the press of agendas, decisions, problems and meetings—are gifts that we should cherish. Unplanned and unexpected vacation days are the best vacation days of all.
- A wild playfulness lurks just beneath the surface of everyone, even among the most serious and professional among us. On a snow day even the CEO of a large business will throw a snowball at his wife. And should.
- The simple pleasures of cooking and eating together are under-valued in modern families. It’s amazing how creative and energetic you can get when restaurants are closed and you’re hungry. You can create dishes you never thought possible on a snow day. And when you sit down with your family around a table to eat together—something that fewer and fewer families do in today’s frantic pace of living—you realize all over again how important that is.
- We’re ill-equipped to deal with boredom. A few hours of enforced idleness in a house really doesn’t constitute cabin fever, despite our feelings otherwise. Our problem is that we have to be doing something, all the time. Or planning on doing something. Or believing that we can do something if we want. But sitting in a house, with little else to do except watch TV or cook or—heaven forbid—read a book? That drives us and our children crazy. And if the power goes out and we don’t have access to the internet, we’re really in a fix. One of my friends yesterday had it right. His power went out, so he built a big fire in his fireplace, put on a head lamp his family had given him for Christmas, pulled out a book, took a seat in his favorite chair and read a book through the afternoon. A snow day every now and then reminds us of how addicted we are to distractions and how healthy it is to return to simpler pleasures.