Monday, December 17, 2007

Dancing in the Snow

I went to bed in the wee hours Saturday morning, the result of a rare night out with my husband. The frigid night had chilled me through to the bones and I just wanted to get warm and cozy under a mountain of comforters. My muscles ached for the treasured ritual of sleeping in, my reward for a week of home management and at-home-mothering.

The flurescent-bright morning peaked through the windows, assaulting my eyes with the white-whiteness. I was roused from my drowsy, caffeine-deprived sleep by the excited chatter of two little girls ready to go "snowing." They scurried out-of-bed, their room across from our room, and ran to the balcony door. "It's SNOWING!!!!" They ran into my room and jumped on the bed, helpless to contain the youthful joy of the first snow of winter.

The legs connected to my body wouldn't move fast enough for the two balls of energy that lit up the hallway. They ran into their room and quickly dressed in layers of clothes. I had to remind them that the snow would wait, they had to eat first. It was usually my day to sleep in as my husband assumed the child duties on Saturdays. Their bottled up excitement wouldn't let me stay in bed so I slumped my way downstairs to make pancakes. My son was asleep on the sofa in the family room, a casualty of watching two little girls on "howl out night" who had more energy than a vending machine can of espresso from Japan. I needed a latte to get me moving.

My girls barely touched their breakfast and did the wind-up-toy jig of children whose parents were taking too long. I cleaned up the dishes, not my usual Saturday morning chore but my son managed to wake up and join his entourage of tween boys for a day in the powdery sunshine. The girls raced through the ranch house and stopped at each window along the way from family room to living room, as if mentally calculating how much snow was on the ground.

I made myself a raspberry peppermint mocha and went back to my room. I opened the blinds so I could take in the cottony white covering on the hundred year old trees. The snow made the neighborhood, with its mid-century homes, look quaint, like a Norman Rockwell painting. I could see neighborhood children on the community triangle park playing and throwing snowballs. My eyes were adjusting to the blinding white of the sun kissing the pure white snow that covered everything like a blanket. I looked at the sky and more of the fluffy flakes were swirling and dancing their way to the ground.

Sleep came quickly to me as I was tired from a long week. I hadn't realized an hour had passed when my six-year-old bounced in my room and declared that they were outside with daddy building a snowgirl. She asked me if I'd like to join them but declared, "Mommy, that's ok if you are tired, you can rest a while." She turned and jump skipped down the stairs, I heard the slamming of the door that shook the rafters of this old house. I pulled the covers back up to my neck.

I lay there and could hear their squeals of laughter ringing through the sky like the bells of the Christmas carolers. My body willed itself to get up and join the fun. It was not something I did, to me, snowy Saturdays were meant for a good book, a great latte, and a glorious nap.

I pulled on layers of clothes, frantically searching the closet for the suffocatingly-warm Michigan transplant sweatshirt that saved me from the freezing Iowa winters while in grad school. Victory in hand and warmth cocooning my body, I ran down the stairs with my daughter's excitement. I came outside and found them gathering snow for a snowgirl. My little four-year-old was instructing my husband on how much snow to take off the mountain on the car. My six year old was rolling a ball for her body as daintily as she could.

We played for a while and went to the back yard. The snow balls started flying almost as soon as the fence was closed. My husband pelted me with one that landed on my legs. I, in turn, landed one on his back. The girls were alternately throwing and dodging the flying, wet mounds. We decided to divide into teams. The warrior princess was my partner and the dainty princess was my husband's partner. The girls took delight in gathering their arsenal of snow balls, ready to test their throwing arm. I wasn't a softball girl when I grew up so it took much effort to pitch them along the length of the back yard.

My husband ran inside to grab the camera and video recorder. This spontaneous snowfight had to be captured for posterity. It was fun and we were oblivious of the time. The balls kept flying through the air with the same speed as the snow was descending on us. When we were panting from breathlessness and hadn't-worked-out-yet running, we decided to finish that snowgirl.

The girls ran inside and gathered together a pink hat and purple scarf. My husband broke off a couple twigs for her arms. We had to improvise on her nose with a shriveled up carrot from the back of the vegetable bin. The snow was still coming down and noses were running amid the laughter and joy of a winter Saturday outside.

We danced around the yard gathering things for the snow girl and sometimes throwing another snowball. We stopped and looked at the neighborhood in the city now our home. It felt right, this our first snowfall in St. Louis. The music of our laughter echoed through the streets. It was a magical moment.

The setting sun prompted us to end our wet moments with a trip to the local coffee shop. We warmed up with lattes and hot chocolate. The girls chatted about their snowgirl and reluctantly gave up their day outside. We left the coffee shop and as we drove down the brightly lit street, all decorated for Christmas, our princesses fell instantly asleep in the backseat. My husband and I looked at each other and beamed a kilowatt smile. We danced in the snow, spontaneously, it was an unplanned, unscripted time together as a family, and that is what it is all about.

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