Evidently it had started snowing during the night.
When I awoke, there was a thin, white sheen on the grass and sidewalk. The flakes were still coming down. Not heavy enough so you could be sure it would be a real blizzard. But enough to cause mischief.
For my two sons, Eric (7) and Alan (3), it is a cause for celebration. Snow ! The pure, unadulterated joy of throwing it, sliding, sloshing, stomping your boots, crumpling it in your gloves.
For me it is a mixed event. Snow -- particularly the Washington D.C. edition -- always evokes childhood nostalgia. But it is also a reminder of my adult self, and all the responsibilities that go with it.
The radio announcer says there will be a delayed opening for Montgomery County schools.
I feel a shot of adrenalin.
It is "my" morning. My wife has already left for her job. I am in charge of getting the kids fed, driving Eric to the school-bus stop, making sure Alan, who goes to a morning nursery program an hour after Eric, has a working car pool. Somewhere in between (hopefully) our housekeeper arrives, and, if everything is running smoothly, I depart for my government job downtown.
A precarious house of cards, our morning schedules. An unexpected event (snow) unglues everything. I might be two hours late for work.
When I go into Eric's room, he is still asleep. I touch him, and he rubs his eyes slowly. Then, remembering the promise of the night before (the television weatherman said it might snow), he leaps up and rushes to the window.
"It is snowing." His eyes are wide with a first grader's sense of awe about the natural beauty of things.
"Is there school, Daddy?"
In spite of myself, I clench my teeth.
So you want to skip school, I think. Shirker.
As we both look out the window, something else comes to mind. I think of the time I was a sixth grader in New York City and, at last, we had enough snow so they did the unthinkable. Close the schools! I recall my excitement. It wasn't that I hated school. In fact, I rather liked it. But snow was a happening made especially for kids. A whole day off! Even cleaning somebody's walk (for 25 cents) was an adventure.
"Two-hour delayed opening," I tell him, keeping the tone parentally neutral.
Will the housekeeper be on time? Will i be able to find someone to drive him to school? Is Alan's program finished for the day?
As we are eating breakfast, there is a further development.
The latest weather report predicts at least 4 to 6 more inches in the suburbs. Montgomery County, showing its customary deference to nature, decides to close its schools all together.
Fortunately, our housekeeper has arrived. I find a friend to come over and play with Eric. I leave instructions about their lunch. I dig out the car, and it starts without a hitch.
Time to go to work.
So what am I doing lingering at the door, talking, giving each of the boys an extra long hug?
"Why don't you stay home?" asks Eric.
It's an idle question. From past experience he probably knows the answer (I can't, I oughtn't; I shouldn't...). Perhaps he sees the gleam in my eyes, the hint of my childhood.
"I wish I could."
"Ooooooh..." He is momentarily disappointed. As if I really had a choice.
When I drive off, I notice that I am only 30 minutes late. Everything is running smoothly. But there is a pang.
I find myself thinking. I hope it snows 10 inches -- 20 inches -- whatever it takes to close down the essential, adult world. I would like it to be my snow day too.