Thursday night, we tucked my husband’s car in the garage and hunkered down. We awoke late the next morning to find no snow. Was Nemo a big tease? All talk and no action?
I made the challah dough, then took a 9 AM call, after which my husband got on his 10:30 on our landline. I called a friend from the back porch, the only place we get cell reception. Nemo was sliding into town, and the flakes fell heavily on my hair.
My friend brought his boys over, along with another child, so the kids could make Destination Imagination progress. Tournament is six weeks away; major blizzards be damned.
That afternoon, as the challah braids rose, I made cookies with Lilah, explaining what the different ingredients do. She understood as she always does, through metaphor and relationships. “Butter and olive oil are the best of friends,” she told me. “Because they do the same thing, and that’s what friends do.”
I took an afternoon call, interviewing someone on the importance of kids finding ways to express their understanding of the world through aesthetics. Downstairs, I could hear the sound of packing tape as Benjamin expressed his understanding of the world through empty boxes and oatmeal containers.
Lilah and Benjamin staged a sleepover in her room. I drank too much of a bottle of wine and slept with the blinds open so I could see the snow.
This morning, we awoke to find that we still had power and every screen door was piled high with snow. Screen doors open outwards, in case you didn’t know. Game on. I suited up and climbed out a window. My husband handed me a shovel out the window, followed by three children who lasted all of five minutes before I had to stop shoveling and hand them back in through the window.
I shoveled out the doors before breakfast and spent the rest of the morning carrying shovels full of snow down to a spot where I could dump them. I took breaks every 45 minutes to go inside and stretch my back. I’ve learned over the last few years that I am, indeed, no longer 26.
After lunch, still not having released my minivan from Nemo’s grip, I asked my husband to come out and work his way up from the bottom of the driveway. He’s not the snow-shoveling type, if he can avoid it, and I usually enjoy the task. But only for the first three hours.
The children came out to play again. I was tempted to set them to shoveling, except the snow reached the shoulder on the tallest. “I need taller children,” I grumbled to my husband. “Or shorter snow.” The snow was just too high for the younger ones. Zach lasted the longest, tunneling through the snow for an hour while Benjamin opened the upstairs window and shouted out to him.
“You shut that window or nobody will get hot chocolate,” I yelled.
When I had to go in to check on the children, I was short-tempered. Every minute spent arguing about whether or not Lilah had to go to the bathroom or mediating an argument was a minute away from finishing the damned shoveling. But, as the afternoon pulled on, the kids fell into a groove inside, and J and I made steady progress towards one another. Every time he paused to talk to me, I growled, “Don’t stop. If you stop, I’ll stop. And if I stop, I won’t start again.”
And so it went, on and on, with the snow seeming to expand before us.
I sang, “Just keep shoveling, just keep shoveling.”
“What’s that from?”
“Finding Nemo. I’m telling you, they named it ‘Nemo’ just so that people could make jokes about it on Facebook and Twitter.”
Round about 2:30, after I had logged 5 hours of shoveling, we staggered into the house. The sounds of packing tape stopped abruptly as Benjamin came running to see if it was finally time for hot chocolate. I gathered wet mittens and snow pants from where they had fallen, so numb-weary that I was only semi-aware of what I was doing. If I just get these things picked up, I can lie down on the floor.
Tonight, the cat asked to go out, and we let him, morons that we are. Not one of the five of us had the sense to say, “Gee, maybe he should stay in tonight.” Two hours later, I had to don the snowpants and boots once more so I could wade through the snow and rescue him from the top of a fence where he had taken refuge from the bewildering sea of white.