Like many working parents, I live in fear from October to April, knowing that at the first sign of a snowflake, the schools will close.
I have tried to develop a series of fail-safe systems to get me to work without leaving the kids in a snowdrift--but the systems always seem to fail.
When the kids were small, I tried the barter method. On weekends, I would do anything for any mother, thinking I would have the favors repaid on snow days. But when the cooperative nursery school closed down, so did the cooperative spirit. Every mother I called was nursing a sick child or trying to make a deal of her own.
This left me with one frightening alternative--taking the kids with me to work. We'd pack up as if it were for a two-week safari, with crayons, crackers, books and toys. But these amusements could not compete with the fun of pounding on typewriters, spilling Cokes on official correspondence or running relays outside the boss' office. When I wasn't getting dirty looks from colleagues, I was dialing Daddy to find out if he would like some company in his office for a few hours.
Now that the children are old enough to be home alone, I go off to my job leaving their breakfasts on the table, their bag lunches on the kitchen counter and a list of instructions that resembles the flight plan for the space shuttle.
By the time I reach my office, the telephone is ringing. It is 9 a.m. and already the children are bored. The six snowflakes that blanketed our street are melting and all snow-related activity is exhausted. Indoors, a trail of wet sweatsocks, mittens, hats, jeans and jackets stretches from one end of the house to the other.
A creative mother might suggest that her kids read Hamlet or Huckleberry Finn, memorize their multiplication tables or otherwise widen their intellectual horizons. But I have not yet had a cup of coffee and I am in no condition to widen anyone's horizons.
"Watch television," I shout into the phone, racing out to a meeting before they can dial again.
When I return, a pile of pink message slips stands in silent protest on my desk.
"Don't call home--it's too late."
At 11 a.m. the children are hungry. TV has taught them that they have an unalienable right to hot soup on a cold day. But which can to open? The child who is old enough to operate the stove is extorting the child who isn't. We have a crisis over Meatball Alphabet vs. Chicken with Stars. After several minutes of negotiations, we reach a Campbell Compromise.
The kids spend the next several hours in intermittent warfare, calling frequently to say how bored they are. By the time I can hang up long enough to drive home, the trail of wet clothes has been joined by a line of dirty glasses and spilled snack foods on every surface.
But snow days are not the worst of it. Closing the schools early is the real stuff of nightmares. One afternoon, my son called to say he and his sister were about to be stranded at school, since a sudden snow storm was attacking the county. I had to leave a project team in mid-project and strand two carpool riders to claim my kids. It didn't help my credibility that the skies outside our office windows were not cloudy all day. It took more than apologies to keep my carpool mates from strangling me with their seatbelts.
Is it any wonder that I cry out, "It better be a blizzard," when I hear Harden and Weaver announce that the county schools are closed for the day?