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What’s A Little Snow?

Are you kidding me? 

I mean, come on. Really. You have got to be kidding me. There’s not even three inches of snow out there, and schools are closing? Again?

Snow day, you have done it once more – barreling into our lives, turning our daily routine upside down, and always overstaying your welcome by making one day off from school into two, or three, or even four, and then tacking on a late-morning opening just for good measure.

What’s the matter with everybody? I say that because I consider myself a seasoned and grizzled snow authority, a veteran of serious snowstorms, a go-to oracle about all manner of frozen precipitation. 

My credentials? For one thing, I was born in the vaunted snow belt of Upstate New York, and I like to think I have a historical predisposition toward icy veins and frozen-tundra tolerances. Plus, I spent my college years in a frigid little valley in that very same region where I learned to walk campus pathways with a certain tense, hunched shuffle that kept me from slipping and falling on the ice. 

All of which prompts me to hold forth with snowfall expertise and predictions of every type, beginning with the notorious, time-honored claim that always causes my wife and teenage children to practically roll their eyes right out of their heads:

Yes, I tell you. It’s true: I can smell snow.

And the storm I smell right  can’t possibly be as big a deal as the school systems seem to want to make it. Because, of course, when a significant snowfall is aiming for our oh-so-delicate mid-Atlantic area, I can’t help but turn into an obsessive, laser-focused, insufferable, winter-weather know-it-all. 

Make that snow-it-all. In a matter of hours, I go from an easygoing, suburban dad to a rough-and-ready snowstorm stalwart in the model of Admiral Richard Byrd tramping toward the South Pole. Fixated on the Weather Channel with my hands on my hips and sneering at the slow crawl of closings and cancellations streaming by at the bottom of the TV screen, I stand ready to tell you just how the snow might affect various types of roadways, whether the flakes are liable to melt right after hitting the ground, and if the power is likely to go out, and for approximately how long. I am a walking, talking arctic weather station. You might as well put me on the roof.

When snow is on the way, everything goes out the window. I can’t work. I can’t think. I can’t cook. Well, I can’t cook anyway. But I suppose my obsessive snowbound state of mind springs from some compulsion to gather and process every scrap of information about threats looming from afar, as well as tap into that particular dad gene that drives me to shelter and protect the family at all costs. Even if I drive them all absolutely nuts in the process. 

It doesn’t help that the breathless meteorologists tracking the storm on TV just rile me up all the more. Watching them nonstop and monitoring the ever-changing Doppler sweep that shows how fast and furiously the snow is bearing down on us, I find myself holding forth with the same outlandish vocabulary that makes them the pros they are. The children feign interest as I explain the definitions of winter storm warnings versus watches versus advisories, how “dry” snow differs from “wet” snow, and how density, consistency and weight may or may not cause large branches to fall from the trees and crash through the sunroof of the car parked in the driveway. 

I pretend to understand the TV commentary about barometric pressure for clues about all this, but I honestly don’t really know what the readings mean (Is high pressure good? Is low pressure bad?). Will rain turn to sleet and then to snow, which in turn might become an ambiguous “wintry mix”? And if the entire meteorological process churns in reverse, might there be the exciting possibility of a “refreeze”? 

Will there be “blowing and drifting” snow on top of the white stuff just sitting out there quietly in our yard? Will we luck into serious – but thrilling – “possible whiteout conditions”? Are we in for a “nor’easter” – even if I’m not exactly sure what direction the snow comes from, where it’s headed, or whether warmer ocean winds might blow in to add fuel to the blizzard (we are currently awaiting buoy data to find out)? Or might we end up getting hopelessly buried in that once-in-a-lifetime storm of “biblical proportions”? Though I am pretty sure they almost never get snow in the Holy Land.

All I know is that when the weather people run down their snow-day checklist and urge me to dress warmly, shovel carefully, stay hydrated and “remember to check on loved ones,” I do as I am told and find my daughter and son, once upon a time so eager to make snow angels in the front yard, barricaded in their rooms, ignoring the winter wonderland and glued to screens – she watching episodes of Friends and he fighting the Battle of Gibraltar in “Call of Duty.”

But if things turn any more biblical, the word may go out to these loved ones that there are still Christmas thank-you notes to write, Boy Scout projects to get a jump on, and a whole pile of gloves, mittens, hats, and scarves that are waiting downstairs to be matched up. 

The flakes are still coming down, and even if there’s barely enough now to cover the grass, I’m starting to think about clearing the steps and walkway. 

Then I remember I have perfectly good teenagers to do that. So enjoy your awesome snow day. But there is the shovel. And the weatherman just said more snow is on the way. 

I can smell it. Can’t you?

Tony Farrell has written about parenting for many books, magazines, and websites. The father of two, Tony has written the DadZone since 2009.
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