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Here Comes the Sun: Dispatches from Snowmageddon Part Three

Saturday night ended in the dark, with just the sound of shovels.  Sunday was a lighter day.  The sun was shining off the enormous mounds of snow.  After breakfast, we bundled up the twins and stepped outside in our snow gear.  Our current snow gear is sort of cobbled together from various sources as opposed to the lovely snowsuits they had when they were younger and barely needed them.  I’m waiting for the season to end to pick up snowsuits for next winter.  Until then, it’s layers of stockings and sweat pants and hats that are too small.  I obviously didn’t gamble well with our money when I assumed we could get through the winter without snow pants.

The reason I love going out in the snow is that it is an excuse to pull out two seldom-used but deeply loved articles of clothing.  The first is a knit cap that comes from a tiny store in Galway, Ireland.  It started pouring and my friend and I ducked into an alleyway and into the first store we found, which turned out to be selling knit items.  An old woman sat behind a desk, knitting some shapeless article of clothing.  The bins were filled with hats and mittens and sweaters and scarves.  The woman smiled at us encouragingly and then realized as we continued to stand there that we had only come inside to get out of the rain.  She let out this warbley sigh and said, “people just come in here to get out of the rain, but they never buy.  They never buy.”

How could we be dicks and not buy something?  I’m sure this was her scam, that she probably ropes dozens of tourists a day into purchasing knit goods they don’t need.  We both ended up with knit caps and I think of her every time it snows and I wear it.

The other is my waterproof pants which are the subject of a song that Josh refused to record for your amusement.  I’m not sure how I ended up with these pants–I know I had them back in college–but early in our relationship, I was packing for a camping trip and I took them out of the closet.  “What the hell are those?” he asked.  I was sort of incredulous that he didn’t own a pair and explained how they were waterproof pants that could be used for spelunking to protect your jeans when you were crawling through the mud (as opposed to the other definition of spelunking).  “How often do you go spelunking that it would make sense to own a pair?” he questioned.

Which is not very often, but damn they’re a handy article of clothing to own.  As I packed for my trip, he made up a song about the waterproof pants that we still sing to this day whenever I wear them out in the snow.  Since, you know, I don’t really crawl into caves anymore.

The twins trekked up to the top of the snow piles, sinking down to their waist with each step.  The ChickieNob tired early, insisting that it was her Dora doll that was cold since she comes from warmer climes.

The Wolvog was able to finally climb a tree since the snow gave him a seven foot boost.

I snapped pictures and climbed into the snow and visited our felled tree and generally walked around with a sense of other-worldly-ness that can only come from having your entire street blanketed in snow.


We are fairly sensitive about our neighbourhood.  Tash asked why we didn’t go to a neighbour to borrow celery, but the fact is that we know very few people on our street.  We have dozens of friends in town, people under a five minute drive away, but we know almost no one in walking distance despite having lived here for years.  There are people we smile at, wave hello to if we see them outside.  There are people we could go to if there was an emergency, but no one that we are friendly enough to knock on their door and say, “hey, craving soup.  Do you have a stalk of celery I could have?”

I am jealous when people talk about how their neighbours float in and out of their house, how their kids move with a pack of other neighbourhood kids.  That’s how we grew up and we wanted it for our kids.  But that isn’t how our neighbourhood operates at all and sometimes I think that it is a socioeconomic thing common in this area (which doesn’t seem to hold true in other areas I’ve lived).  We are neither in a place of poverty where bonding becomes a necessity nor a place of affluence where activities rule all.  In the DC area, this in-between space is a quiet space.

The personality of this neighbourhood wasn’t something we could really sense before we bought the house and now we’re somewhat stuck, always eager whenever we see someone new moving in because they bring with them that possibility.  We made life choices, such as my desire to stay home with the twins, that trumped having the nice home and expendable income.  I have no regrets about that, but it is something that I always have to remember–that I got something that was worth far more to me than a spacious living room and extra bedrooms.

I also sometimes wonder if I would really like the reality of that fantasy neighbourhood.  Maybe I’m just in love with the idea because I wouldn’t love the expectation of responsibility that comes with watching another person’s child without any preparation.  It’s one thing for someone to call and ask if they can drop off their child for an impromptu playdate.  It’s another thing to have a stray kid show up at my door and feel responsible for them.  I do love it when friends drop by unexpectedly, but I love it because it’s not a daily occurrence.  So I both detest our neighbourhood and feel thankful for the cushion of solitude it gives me.

And yet I can’t understand how we can all be outside, all shoveling up the same snow, all bundled up with the same complaints churning internally about the weather, the delayed plows, and not interact.  How I can throw open my door and offer out hot chocolate and no one accepts.  How the kids can all play in their own yards, not even really noticing the other kids a few yards away.


We subscribe to the philosophy Hugh Grant’s character expounded in About a Boy.  We look at the day in units of time rather than an enormous sea of minutes.  Making and eating breakfast=one hour.  Mrs. Pickens Free Play Time (please don’t ask the origin of this name)=one-and-a-half hours.  Aquadoodle Fill in Hour=28 minutes.  I’m aware that last one has “hour” in the title, but they usually quit the enormous task of filling in the entire aquadoodle before it fades after 28 minutes.

This time, they were creating the Dead Sea on the aquadoodle.  I was making chocolate chip cookies and cringed when I heard the ChickieNob tell her brother, “today, we are colouring in the entire Dead Sea.  Every last inch of it.”  I feared that we were skating a little to close to yesterday’s conversations.

But instead the dialogue went something like this:

ChickieNob: Why is it called the Dead Sea?

Me: Because nothing can live in it because it’s so salty (please don’t correct me if I’m wrong on this account; I’m not actually all that interested in the Dead Sea despite having been there to swim numerous times).  There are no fish, no plants–nothing in the water except the sand and rocks and salt deposits.

ChickieNob: What about sharks?

Me: No, there are no animals in the Dead Sea.

ChickieNob: But what if a shark swam into the Dead Sea by accident?

Me: Well, that can’t really happen.  But it wouldn’t be able to live in that water because it’s too salty.

ChickieNob: But what if it did live and then someone went into swim and it ate them.

Me: Like I said, that can’t really happen because sharks can’t live in that water.

ChickieNob: Why not?

Me: Again, like I said, it’s too salty.

ChickieNob: But what about other animals?

Me: Again, it’s too salty, there are no animals in the water.

ChickieNob: What about fish who like salt?

Me: Fish with hypertension?

The conversation would wind down only to start back up again with the same, damn questions.  And then ever so slowly, we backed away from discussions of death and loss and returned to drawing out the perimeter of the Dead Sea, asking instead when we’d travel there as we’ve promised them in the future, in the future, sometime well into the future.


One of the concessions we made when going down to a single salary was that we would stop buying a lot of books and renting movies and instead take advantage of the public library.  Going to the library feels like a decadent act.  There are times when I run in, grab one thing, and run out.  But most of the time, we go and fill our bags with books and movies and music.  And it’s all free.  It doesn’t matter if I have to return it in three weeks–for those three weeks they’re all mine.

Before the snow came, we went to the library to pick up books and movies and we brought home the first season of the Muppet Show, something I would never buy even if given a gift certificate, but which I looked forward to all Friday knowing that it was in the stack.  On Saturday, we piled into our bed with a bowl of snacks and we cued up the first Muppet DVD.  “You’re going to love this.  It’s so funny,” we promised them.

Except we were the only ones laughing.

The twins stared at the screen with their mouths slightly open and then would look back at us and ask, “what was so funny just now?”  Most of the jokes were over their heads, they would have been over my head as a kid (Henny Youngman references?  A take-off on Joel Grey’s Cabaret opening number?).  And yet I remember loving the show, thinking it was so funny.  I’m not sure what I was laughing at as a child.

It was like hanging out with old friends, ones that had called first and given ample warning for their visit.  I wanted the twins to think Gonzo was cute.  I wanted them to feel comforted by Kermit.  I wanted them to be equally annoyed with Miss Piggy (I never liked her, and it wasn’t even a kosher thing).  And yet like an inverse Facebook, everyone looked so incredibly young that it made me suddenly feel very old.  Connie Stevens in a poodle skirt?  The ChickieNob wanted to know if Juliet Prowse was still dancing–how could I tell her that Juliet Prowse is, in fact, dead?  That she died almost ten years before the ChickieNob was even born.

And yet, despite my old friends making me enter a time warp where everyone was still young and healthy, that moment in our bed was pure happiness.  This is all I’ve ever wanted–to be snowed in with my family, enjoying the fact that we can’t go anywhere, with good movies and books to entertain us, and dough rising in the kitchen that will be turned into pizzas a few hours later, and everyone cuddled underneath the same blanket.


1 HereWeGoAJen { 02.08.10 at 10:39 am }

Get the best of Muppet Show DVDs. Much better to introduce kids to the Muppets with. I did it with my second grade class and I soon had a bunch on converts. (Actual conversations: “It’s not the Muffins, silly, it is the MUFFETS.”)

This morning, I named the squirrels we see on our walk. (They have to share a name since they all look so similar.) Garfunkel KidneyBlotch.

2 Somewhat Ordinary { 02.08.10 at 10:46 am }

I live in a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. Which also means when everyone knows you they also know your business or want to know your business. It is great knowing I can count on someone close by for anything at any time be it a playdate, a walk around the neighborhood, a glass of wine to whine over something, a cup of sugar etc. It can also be nerve-racking because gossip runs rampant! I could seriuosly write an entire blog about things that happen in my neighborhood and no one would get bored reading-it can be a real life Peyton’s Place sometimes.

3 Battynurse { 02.08.10 at 11:21 am }

I seem to always end up in neighborhoods where the neighbors stand and visit over the fence or something. Or maybe I bring that to the neighborhood. I almost always have neighbors that I can talk to at least a little bit. Granted I don’t know if I could go borrow celery from them though because that would be so similar to asking for help which is something that I find utterly paralyzing.

4 Tonggu Momma { 02.08.10 at 11:27 am }

I know exactly what you mean by DC neighborhoods, but ours (which is technically more of a Baltimore suburb, although many do commute to DC and NoVa) really IS like the ones I experienced growing up. I’ve lived in five other DC neighborhoods that are all like you described, but this one? Is close-knit, with neighbors children wandering in and out of all of the houses and constant borrowing of kitchen stuffs. We are close, even closer now that we lost one of our own to cancer last fall.

5 Sarah { 02.08.10 at 12:16 pm }

We have been in our neighborhood for almost 3 years, and we’ve only really gotten to know one neighbor. Yesterday, a few of them came over and offered to clear our 100 yard long driveway with their snowblower and we all sat around and chatted for 3 or 4 hours while the guys took turns running the machine, DH brought out his flask of whisky to share around, and we felt for the first time that we belonged in this neighborhood full of families.

6 Meredith { 02.08.10 at 12:43 pm }

Love this post! Such a sweet image of you guys snuggled together watching the Muppets. I live in an apartment and wish I knew my neighbors….beyond introducing ourselves we’ve spoken very little. There is a baby with cp on the first floor, and his grandma and I did laundry together one morning. It was good to connect; now the grandma as well as her son-in-law and I chat when we see each other.

7 Trinity { 02.08.10 at 1:41 pm }

It’s funny to hear about your experience in your neighborhood, mostly because I just always assumed that our NOT (yet) having children was kind of what was keeping us out of the neighborhood loop. Our neighborhood was built in the 50’s, and most of the original 1950’s owners still live in their houses…which means that the mean age of our neighborhood is probably about, oh, 75. As our neighbors have made the transition to assisted living communities and beyond, there’s been a slow infusion of younger couples and families. We’re on the same distant-hello wavelength with most of them. One couple with two small children moved in two doors down from us and remarked how happy they were to see another youngish couple in the ‘hood. When they excitedly asked if we had children and we told them that we didn’t, their disappointment was so visible. Ouch. 🙁 Anyway, neighborhoods are strange beings.

And speaking of Jim Henson-related things, I was also a huge Fraggle Rock fan growing up. We gave our then 5yo niece a Fraggle Rock DVD with so much confidence that she’d love-love-love it…but my sister says she lost interest in it pretty quickly. Total bummer!

I’ve enjoyed your snowbound chronicles! 🙂

8 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 02.08.10 at 1:46 pm }

I loved Miss Piggy. Or should I say, moi loved Miss Piggy. Only child thing?

I also really enjoyed Piiiigs Innnnn Spaaaaace when I was little. I think any kid would find Statler and Woldorf, Animal, Beaker, the Swedish Chef, and Fozzie funny. Basically, weird emotional tones or nonsense syllables. Wocka wocka!

9 a { 02.08.10 at 2:12 pm }

My girl is not that interested in Sesame Street or the Muppets. She’d rather watch Pixar movies and Shaun the Sheep. But she will suffer through the movies, and she did briefly like Elmo. They might be a little young for the Muppet show too – I don’t think we really got into it until we were aroung 8 or 9.

Our neighborhood is a pretty friendly one. We’re a little younger than most, and while there are plenty of kids, they’re so spread out that you don’t see them wandering from yard to yard. I could borrow food supplies from anyone. I think you need about 2 or 3 extreme extroverts to make the neighborhood more friendly. Otherwise, you just get people waving hi, but not actually starting a conversation. Usually, though, a major snow will bring out the friendly, because people like to commiserate.

We’re awaiting Snowmageddon Jr. here in the Midwest. We’re supposed to get 5″ of snow overnight tonight, but many of the schools closed in anticipation of the snow starting today. It’s now 1 pm and everything that fell so far has already melted. The snow hysteria cracks me up. But I’m glad I don’t have 7 ft snow mountains!

10 jill { 02.08.10 at 2:41 pm }

You have such a gift for description and writing. I almost feel like I was with you all somehow this past weekend since reading these three posts.

And, for what it’s worth, it’s all I’ve ever wanted as well. Reading about how much you acknowledge and appreciate it makes me feel better. Though, I admit, I did shed a few tears while reading.

11 Kristin { 02.08.10 at 5:01 pm }

My neighborhood is sort of a cross between yours and the uber-friendly one. My kids are always going over to someone’s house or are having a friend drop by. In fact, yesterday afternoon, I had a total of 7 kids (counting my 3) at my house. However, the only adults I feel I know at all are the parents of my kids’ friends.

I love the stories of how you spent your time this weekend. Let me tell you, if I had been around when you offered hot cocoa to people, I certainly would have accepted the offer.

12 Mary { 02.08.10 at 5:46 pm }

I just had the exact same conversation with my husband about how wonderful library books are – how it’s the only time you can walk into a place, and leave with your arms absolutely loaded for free with items that you and you alone get to keep and read for several weeks.

We barely know our neighbors. Most of them don’t seem to have even noticed that the old lady who built this house in 1948 has moved to a retirement community, and that a nice young couple has moved in with their golden retriever. It’s so strange to me – When I was little, there was a lady across the street who grew a pumpkin patch in her backyard so all the neighborhood kids could pick out our own pumpkins for Halloween, and there was a summer block party every year at another neighbor’s pool.

Thanks for writing these!!! I’ve been reading the Dispatches to my husband as you’ve posted them and we’ve both felt transported to a snowed-in cozy winterscape, which is lovely from where I sit in 65 degree Florida.

13 Calliope { 02.08.10 at 7:50 pm }

I see I have some Muppet work to do here. 🙂
And the neighborhood thing? That was how it was where we lived in Florida. People waved, nodded, jogged around us- but it wasn’t until the moving truck was in our driveway that people introduced themselves.
I wish we could make our own neighborhoods!

14 Flying Monkeys { 02.08.10 at 8:41 pm }

I had that dream about my neighborhood and my family. Neither worked out that way…most days I’m fine with that.

I loved the Muppets, maybe we should dig up some DVDs.

15 coffeegrl { 02.09.10 at 12:22 am }

The neighborhood thing is a little weird. My neighborhood when I was a kid was much as you described from your childhood- pretty much all the kids played together, we had block parties, holiday parties together etc. It seemed so familiar and cozy. Our immediate neighborhood in Seattle is more transient in nature with lots of people in townhomes and apartments coming and going. And there’s little interaction and zero kids. And yet….our parent support group was organized based on our neighborhood and for that I’m grateful. We have several families with kids almost exactly the same age as my daughter who live within a 15 minute walk of our house which makes playdates convenient. We can meet up at the “neighborhood” coffee shop and occasionally run into one another at the store and they’re the most wonderful people to top it all off. Friends of ours in another neighborhood joined the same organization and their “neighborhood” group is very different – colder, less involved with one another (no playdates or spontaneous meetings) and the adults never commiserate over a glass of wine or beer. In this regard I’m very thankful for where we live and what we have been given! It’s nothing I expected, but it works amazingly well.

16 KLTTX { 02.09.10 at 2:35 pm }

I grew up in an amazing neighborhood where everyone hung out at the “club” (tennis courts and a pool) and had a great time. Many of us have reconnected on FB. I don’t know of many neighborhoods like that anymore. I know mine is not like that even though we do know a lot of our neighbors.

We actually bought all of the Muppet Show DVDs thinking that our DS would love it as much as we did. I think he only humors us.

17 Bea { 02.10.10 at 5:51 am }

I think my kid is the lone one on the street who turns up on everyone’s doorsteps… the others – though we have played with them – tend to stick to their own homes. Maybe he doesn’t have enough toys. PB always goes running off to other kids’ houses looking for specific toys.

Anyway, it sounds like you had a good snow day, even if the questions did get repetitive.


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