The children had their homework done, and Monnica O'Connor had made soup for dinner.

There would be a fire in the fireplace later, a day of sledding in between, and as she hauled her husband's busted old Yankee Clipper up the monster hill behind Rockville's Robert Frost Middle school yesterday, the season suddenly seemed joyous and serene.

"We're giddy!" she laughed from the summit as snow drifted benignly from the gray sky and ranks of children plummeted by on snow tubes and saucers of orange, purple and blue.

Capricious winter sought to make amends yesterday, layering the region in as much as six perfectly timed inches of snow that was just enough to sled in, light enough to shovel, and wet enough to pack into snowballs.

It made for the giant, chest-high snow orb that youngsters from Julius West Middle School rolled at the foot of Monument Hill in Rockville, and beside which they posed like big-game hunters when it would roll no more.

It made for the vast snowfield beside Germantown's Greenridge Baptist Church, through which Mike Kinderdine, 17, the associate pastor's son, happily roared on his go-cart with knobby tires.

And it made for the harshly beautiful tableau in the Potomac River gorge on the Maryland side of Great Falls, where by late afternoon the wind had picked up, filled the woods with clots of airborne snow and whisked two squawking Canada geese eastward.

Soothing and captivating, the season yesterday did its best to make the Washington area forget its depredations of Tuesday, the horn-honking, oath-uttering, apoplectic traffic debacle over a half-inch of snow.

And darned if it didn't almost succeed.

"You think about today," Glen Kruglak, 51, a part-time writer from Potomac, said as he waited to hop a tube down the Robert Frost hill. "What do you care about today? Nobody out here's worried about anything. We're just out here having a good time."

The world indeed seemed changed.

Michael Jordan is with the Wizards, he said. "The forecast was correct. The snow trucks got out. The kids are out of school today, and they're all having a blast. This is not a debilitating storm. You can still get around. You don't have to stock up at the Giant."

His brother, Alan, 45, also a writer from Potomac, who was on the hill with his two children, Eric, 7, and Danielle, 10, was still smarting from Tuesday, though.

It was "terrible, horrendous," Alan Kruglak remembered, as he was about to launch down the hill and avoid the soccer goal that loomed at the bottom. "An hour and a half from Potomac to Rockville. It would have been longer, but I went on the median strip."

But that was Tuesday.

Yesterday he called to his son, "I'm going to go first, Eric," as he hurtled off, pounding over snow aboard an inflated bladder of rubber. "He's crazy," his brother laughed.

But a minute later Alan was back. "Want to try, Glen?"

"Yeah," Glen replied. Then he was off down the slope.

"Watch out!" Alan yelled down the hill after his brother. "Big one coming! Big object!"

"What a great day," he said.

Five miles away, along the towpath of the C&O Canal National Historical Park at Great Falls, Howard Pennell, 38, of Alexandria, and John Mirza, 38, of Arlington, were enjoying the snowy solitude.

Pennell said he relished the season's quiet. "There's a different sound," he said. "Completely different sound."

"You don't have nearly the impact from all different directions," he said. "You can't hear planes. You can't hear cars. . . . All you hear is water, birds and occasionally a person."

As he spoke, water rushed through one of the canal locks, and in the distance, the greenish Potomac cascaded through the jagged rocks of the gorge, which the snow had tinged like mountain peaks as far as you could see.

The opaque ice on the canal was dangerous and thin, proclaimed orange warning signs, and snow bombs from the trees plunged right through.

"It's beautiful," Mike Morgan, 24, a photographer from Silver Spring, said as he emerged from the woods laden with photo equipment. "The landscape changes entirely when there's snow on it. It completely changes the perspective of ordinary things.

"Really unexpected things show up.

"It's spectacular."

CAPTION: Hank Pinkney, left, Shantia Johnson, Larekia Washington and Tyrone Turner end up in a pile after trying to slide down a La Plata hill together.

CAPTION: Joanna Ariel Skeath, 12, makes a snowman in her Silver Spring yard.

CAPTION: Joe Kreck examines his precariously stranded car. Kreck, who recently moved to a new neighborhood in Falls Church, said he forgot there was a turn and then ran his car over a wall.

CAPTION: Shelley Donaldson, 3, lunches on snow after a morning of sledding in Sligo Creek Park in Silver Spring.

CAPTION: Enjoying a day off from school, Renato Barreto, 7, of Mount Pleasant, makes a snow angel on a hillside near the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park.