Little Details2/12/09

Initiated by snow

Feb. 12, 2009

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Aren’t we overdue for a snow day? My yard is a mass of gleaming white stuff, like so many gallons of Marshmallow Fluff dumped from heavenly pails. Snowflakes fall. It just seems the volume and timing are a little off.

Winter came early to Vermont with a blast of arctic air and requisite piles of heaped, frozen ice crystals. Our kids reaped bonus snow days early in the season. Lately, we haven’t even had a measly “two-hour delay.”

When overnight accumulations are predicted, I’m usually the first one up checking, the Chittenden South Supervisory Union Web site, hoping for a snow day. When the latest local snowfall doesn’t measure up, I scan to see which, if any, schools are treated to a day off.

Let’s face it, our lives are busy. Our kids’ lives are busy by extension. There’s loads of homework, chores, sports and creative arts extracurriculars, as well as time with family and friends. High school students often add part-time jobs at places like Shaw’s and Majestic Movie Theater into the mix. Sports and schoolwork spill into weekends traditionally reserved for spiritual reflection and those Sunday afternoon drivers people no longer talk about. There just isn’t a lot of “white space” in our kids’ lives … that’s where the “white stuff” comes in.

Snow is glue, cementing neighborhood friendships while gently obscuring superficial age differences. It’s a magical elixir, reinvigorating a homework-weary child up to her ears in math problems and journal entries. Snow transforms home into a fortress as snowdrifts become tunnels and municipal snowplows pack in the ends of our just-shoveled driveways.

Remember the Valentine’s blizzard of 2007? Layer upon layer of ceaseless snow swirled overhead, landing in intricate piles perfect for navigating in, around and over.

Our family settled in amid deep snow. Shovels and snow blowers eventually emerged as neighbor helped neighbor dig out. When we finally ventured out to buy groceries following days of hibernation, my daughter said, “Mom, I haven’t been out of the neighborhood for three days.” Our cupboard wasn’t bare. We were, however, hankering for fresh milk, fruits and veggies depleted in our cloistered state.

I thought to myself, “You haven’t been ‘in’ much either.” The previous 72 hours were characterized by neighborhood kids’ energetic forays into the white stuff piled high outside our windows. We were the new family on the block, having moved in a few months earlier. I remember how the band of kids welcomed my daughter into their snowy fold of activity. They introduced her to “the sledding hill,” a sloped patch of land in our development. They made snowmen, forts and tunnels. Snow-tinged expeditions outdoors were complimented by brief respites indoors to defrost. The kids consumed quarts — if not gallons — of hot chocolate a la Nestle Quik, Milo, Ovaltine and Lake Champlain Chocolates’ signature Mocha Cocoa. Lunchtime became potlucks, with gatherings in each other’s houses to share Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese or whatever the fridge offered up as leftovers. There was no doubt my child was now just one of the neighborhood kids, initiated by snow.

Friendships were forged over compressed snowflakes, loaned socks and mittens and time spent warming chilled noses and toes by the fireplace. Mudrooms remained on high alert, with boots splayed in contorted fashion and snow pants hanging conspicuously, hoping to have just enough time to dry before the next foray outdoors.

Sometimes it’s good to be dumped on … with snow, that is. Cemented in our neighborhood, surrounded by inches and inches of gleaming white stuff, we hunkered down, settled in and connected.

So, if it looks like snow, place those boots under your bed, don your pajamas inside out — and let nature (hopefully) work her magic!

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at or