I walked to work

Sunday morning we woke up to snow. It had rained quite hard the night before, and a cold front came in during the night. If there had been snow in the forecast, I missed that news. Anyway, it was not the usual snow of a New York winter, but the heavy, wet, out of season stuff. 



What I saw: I was walking to work in the winter of 2008. We lived in Seattle then. I had a paying job and neighbors I knew. A different life. 

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What I did beforehand: got up, got dressed, got the dogs squared away, got my kids up, did some get-ready-for-school yelling, made my lunch, complained that it wasn’t a snow day, decided whether the walk to school in the slushy snow was going to ruin my boots. The snow hadn’t stuck to the pavement.

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What I wore: tights and boots and a wool skirt. The school had a strict dress code for students. I would have just as soon worn jeans every day, but jeans were only allowed on Fridays, except when there was mass. Mass days were dress-up days. I had a heavy bag full of grading and a sack lunch.

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Who went with me: I walked alone to school—alone with my resentment about the disconnect between my salary and the preparation and challenge of the job. 

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How I got hit in the face with a snowball: I saw him before he threw it. He was standing on his porch, getting his New York Times. 

Why I got hit in the face with a snowball: it doesn’t snow in Seattle very often, and I must have presented an irresistible target.

Things that were sad: it hurt.

Things that were funny (with apologies to Mel Brooks): snowballs that connect with other people are comedy. Snowballs that hit me in the face are tragedy.

Things that were not funny: I had no witty comeback, no arm to retaliate, and no time to do anything except keep walking to my job.

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Something I ate: sweetened iced-tea, a non-fat peach yogurt, a banana and a granola bar that I brought from home, but what I really wanted was a ham sandwich with a lot of mustard on Jewish rye bread, chips, a pickle, and a Coke. Every day when I ate my lunch, lunch-eating-me resented the hell out of lunch-making-me.

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What it is: a harmless prank, committed without forethought, calls for a commensurate reply. Before we moved I used to think about bringing this neighbor a supply of snow from the mountains, which is something you can do in the spring in Seattle, where the mountains are a little over an hour away. Another idea I had involved planting something unexpected in his garden. I never did anything. 


Who should see it: they do say revenge is best served cold, but this one will have to go up to the universe as another un-righted wrong. 


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Snow Days

The kids looked forward to them like they were more special than Christmas Day, and in all the years we lived in Seattle it seems like we never had more than one or two, but snow days are snow days, eagerly watched for the night before, groaned over when the night’s accumulation only yielded a late start at school. The snow day is not loved by adults, certainly not by anyone who must get to work and can’t just phone it in.
 Snow days for some adults are like fretful days spent at home when a child is sick and a sitter can’t be found. Snow days are when the office building is being fumigated for rats, or when there’s an acquisition rumor, or the boss quits abruptly, or the project is cancelled, but, in any case, all the meetings are rescheduled and no one is getting anything done. Snow days are the whole day taken off work for a teacher conference that lasted twenty unproductive minutes and won’t lead to the kid being one bit happier or more adjusted to the school.
Some people seem to know just what to do on a grown-up snow day. They hit the gym, or the spa, or do some sort of whiskey tasting or a day-long iPhone photography seminar. Or, they get new tires, or clean out the garage, or completely reorganize their sewing room, with enough time leftover to can a dozen jars of bourbon roasted-cranberry relish. Some people live like they’re waiting for a snow day, and they know just how they’ll spend it.
Before it began snowing in earnest (we were awaiting Juno), I took the dogs out for the counterclockwise tour of the property. There was thick ice under the current top layer of snow, and the top layer wasn’t quite deep enough for snowshoes, so I went out in snow boots and took a pole. The dogs went fast; they just don’t mind as much as I do the scrambling and slipping. I fell on my ass, once.
We came upon a dead fox that made me sad. Who kills a fox? A bobcat? Bear? Coyotes? Old age? Lover’s quarrel? Turf war? Was it poisoned by neighbors? Should I freeze it and take it to the vet for an autopsy? We’ve been watching a fox all year. We could see it hunting along the bushes. Crouching, pouncing. The cat liked to watch it. The dogs hated the fox, and barked their angriest intruder alerts when it trotted across the upper field in the late morning sunshine. Was this that fox?
By the morning the storm had come, and we’d been promised as much as two feet of snow. I awoke to the bright whiteness of daylight without sunshine. The snow was falling, hard, but the flakes were tiny, light, and seemed determined to stay in the air and never land. Outside the windows facing east and west the snow flew by, horizontally, soundless. It gave me the impression of motion, the way that snow would look from a speeding car. Except we were in the house, and the house wasn’t whizzing along at 26 mph. The dissonance, the mismatch of perceived motion to sensed stillness made me feel a little sick.
 

Following on snowshoes

Later that day, we timed our walk to catch the end of the day and the falling snow. The young dog took off at a run while I struggled with the straps. I enjoy everything about snowshoeing except putting them on; I’m beginning to think I should strap my snow boots into them and leave them strapped in. Out on the property, I have to walk behind my husband, and he is faster and fitter and has longer legs. The old dog will follow closely behind me in the snow if I’m alone, but with my husband here she fills the space between us.
Towards the end of my parents’ marriage they took a last trip to Europe. My mother came back with a week’s worth of Kodak Ektachrome slides mostly featuring my father from about 30 feet behind; she couldn’t keep up and he wouldn’t wait. In a few years, my father moved on to a new career, and a new wife and kid. My mother moved on to a new career, and a new husband and step-kids. While I follow my husband I wonder what he is moving on to. I stop him and ask him to slow down. He is happy to. The dog gallops off to join the other dog.
We passed the dead fox. It was a simple lump, covered completely in snow. The dogs quietly sniffed it again, and moved on.