I sat at the kitchen table, alone with a cup of reheated coffee and my phone. I tapped on my Facebook app. "Well this storm was a dud.....so sad," my friend's status said.
The kids had just eaten and traipsed off -- after being reminded to manage their dirty dishes -- to dig out all their snow clothes, with my final admonition regarding how much time was left before it would be polite to knock on the neighbors' door. The Christmas CD I'd put on at breakfast was still playing.
I replied to my friend's status, "I think it looks beautiful and our plow guy did a great job! It's still snowing here..." trying to be charitable because I'd felt a little Grinch-y when I'd replied to her message of the day before "AM SO EXCITED FOR THE SNOW.....WHO'S WITH ME???" with "Better now than during the school week, but I am not a big fan."
Church was cancelled and I was not in a hurry to do anything in particular, so I posted a picture of my backyard and then realized I had not answered a message from a former colleague.
Hmm-hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm-hmm, let it snow, I intermittently hummed and sang along as I thought about whether I would write back to my colleague from my phone or wait until I got to my computer where I'm not all thumbs and can type faster. Since the latter already hadn't happened in many days, I decided I'd reply on the phone. I had time.
"Blah blah blah," I wrote. "And sorry to take so long to reply... Things are good but so busy.
(I don't want to be one of those people who uses "busy" as an excuse, status symbol, or the new "fine" when someone asks how I am, so I laid my trump card.)
"...all three boys are playing on two teams."
I continued, "Blah blah blah and I haven't really done any Christmas shopping yet."
But shopping isn't even all of it. Like many of us do, I put so much pressure on myself to create certain experiences, prepare special meals, decorate the house just so, choose the right gifts ... not to mention take the perfect photos (perhaps to prove how perfect everything is, or maybe just to look at and experience later since I was too busy at the time creating, preparing, decorating and so on to notice anything.) Every year I say I won't, but I do.
"Ah yes! That warm, wonderful feeling when you spread yourself too thin, and deliver sub par in virtually every role you play..." was another friend's recent Facebook status. Judging by the number of comments, there were many of us who could relate.
But there I was, on a Sunday with nothing in particular I had to do.
When their waiting time was up and my kids bundled up and took off for a couple of hours, I seized the opportunity to accomplish the bulk of my shopping online, except for the things I'd planned to buy locally. Then I wrote out a bunch of holiday cards and enjoyed doing so, rather than looking at it as a task to check off my to-do list. I also had time to sit and think about what is really important to me about the holidays. It's far less about expectations and obligations than it is about getting together with and appreciating family, having time off from the usual routine, and reflecting about the year gone by while preparing for what's to come.
On Monday, my youngest said he loved the snow and wished he had a snow day. I told him the storm couldn't have happened at a better time, as far as I was concerned. We were walking down our long driveway towards the bus stop around the corner and I had a coffee in one hand and a snow shovel in the other.
"Don't you like snow, Mommy?"
"Well, yeah, it's nice to look at," I admired the canopy of trees and how the sunlight sparkled through them. "And I know you had a blast yesterday and it's fun for people who sled and ski and ride snowmobiles ... but it's dangerous and expensive."
"We're lucky it was a weekend, and the weekday-nine-to-five-ish people didn't have to commute. But think about the people who did have to get to work when the roads were slippery and they couldn't see. Or what if we had an emergency and we had to drive to the hospital? And if we got there, we had to wait to see a doctor because the doctor was having trouble driving?"
"We were very fortunate to be tucked inside our warm house when the wind was howling and the snow was whipping around, but think of people who had to be out, and what about homeless people?" And I wished that the older brother who thought it was cool not to wear a coat to school could walk a mile in the shoes of those whose only Christmas wish is a coat, or shoes, even. "Or what about those whose power went out and they couldn't cook pancakes for breakfast or make cookies and hot cocoa and they couldn't 'come in out of the cold' because they had no heat?"
"And then think about how much snow has to be moved not just off the roads, but also out of our driveway! (I was again grateful for the plow guy we found just the day before the storm.)"
"Well, our driveway looks good, Mom, so what are you doing with that shovel?" My son asked as we continued our walk towards the street.
"I just have to clean up the end of it where the town plow went by and shovel in front of the mail box so we can get mail today. Can you go to the bus stop by yourself? I'll watch from here."
"Okay, Mom. Bye, Mom."
"Bye, honey. Have a successful day!"
I waved to the bus driver as she passed and then watched my son get on the bus. A couple of neighbors went by and we chatted amicably about snow removal and plow companies versus snow blowers or tractors and exchanged other neighborly pleasantries.
I finished shoveling and walked back up the long driveway to the house humming, Hmm-hmm in a hmmm-hmmm wonderland, grateful that the storm had come and gone when it did, and feeling quite a bit more Christmas-y than usual on a Monday morning.
The mother of three sons, Caroline Poser lives with her family in Groton. Visit www.carolineposer.com.