It had snowed heavily the evening before. It was a foot deep out front and beautifully quiet. No cars had come down our street, and this seemed to be about the way it ought to be, as I put on my coat, gloves and hat and went outside, where, in a red exclamation of quilted jacket against the brilliant white snow, my brown-haired, brown-eyed daughter was industriously shoveling off the front sidewalk. She looked up as she saw me coming down the porch stairs.

"Where're you going?" she asked.

"To Peoples," I said.

"Can I come along?"

"Sure, I said, and we set out together through the untrodden, powdery snow that scrunched pleasantly underfoot as I broke the trail and she came skipping along behind me, greenbooted and happy.

"What do you have to get?" she asked.

"Something significant," I said, and then explained it to her: how the newspapers hadn't been delivered that morning; and how it was necessary to write something again; and how you got the newspapers to find out what was significant and what wasn't.

In the meantime, it was pleasant walkig in the snow, with the air wonderfully crisp, and one's leg feeling like they could go a hundred miles and with the 9-year-old daughter tagging along, as always, and thrilled to be going to any store.

"What does 'significant' mean, Daddy?" she asked.

"Something that really counts," I said. "That is valuable."

"That would be like, ahh, you're significant to me?

"Significant," the contemplative voice came from behind me. "I never knew that."

The sun shown on the snow so brightly I though I might go blind, but plunged on anyway knowing that if such a thing happened she would guide me and that I could utterly depend on her.

In fact, it was a matter of perpetual wonderment to me, how much all of us in the family could depend on her. For instance, the sidewalk-shoveling had been her own idea; as had the idea of washing out the old black dog's loathsome food dish the night before been her idea -- a chore so awesome that nobody else in the family has wanted to talk about it or even think about it. This had taken her an hour to do and afterward she had opened a can of his favorite dog food and fed the astonished mutt out of the clean dish and then he had followed her around the house trying to climb in her lap and lick her face. She called him "Pup" although he was about twice her size. She's had his number ever since she was 4 and he would have leapt off a precipice for her if she casually asked him to; and every night he slept under her bed so that you had to be careful when it was prayertime not to kneel on the bushy black tail and cause all sorts of profane yelping.

By now we had reached Old Dominion Drive, which had been cleared, some, and there were no cars on it, either, and we went down it together, side by side, mitten in glove.

"I just love the snow, Daddy," she said. She was jumping up and down as she walked and squealing.

"Me too," I said. What I wanted was for more of it to come and for the family to be snowed in. We had everything we needed for that: food on the shelf and lots of oil in the furnace, and everybody had something to do. My wife was refinishing the dining room table and, when she got tired ot that, was going to read John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snow Bound." My son, who'd been taken aback by the Washington Diplomats' signing Johann Cryuyff, had a stack of old soccer magazines to look back through and decide whether he wanted to switch his alegiance from Alan Green. I of course had something significant to write about. And this daughter had more things to do than any of us, since she was currently working on several Junior Girl Scout merit badges, playing the violin whenever she got the chance, and finishing up an interesting-looking book that seemed to have something to do with a lion, a witch and a wardrobe.

All up and down Old Dominion Drive, people were walking in the street headed either to or from the warm and interesting drugstores, and they all looked healthy, red-cheeked, and happy -- much better than they did when there was no snow -- and they smiled in passing and gret one another, and us, and the long vista of the street with people on it was like a 19th-century print, and I wanted the snow to stay all the time.

When we got to Peoples, there was a hand-lettered sign on the door that read, "Fresh Hot Coffee!" and we went inside, to where the Easter candy was, where my daughter raised the idea of getting an Easter basket for that slave of hers, the dog, who weighed a hundred pounds, half of it teeth, and could kill a bear. And so we stood there having a philosophical conversation about that; with me maintaining that Gordon setters did not necessarily celebrate human Easters and, in fact, weren't human; and with her countering with the observation that they might be more human if they were given Easter baskets. In the end, however, she decided to take him for a walk, instead. And so we bought some candy bars, and the newspapers to find something significant in, and three large boxes of the kind of cracker Jacks that now have 70 peanuts in them as well as, of course, the Prize, and a magazine with an article in it about "How to Make Your Life Less Complicated," and were on our way.

Back out in the snow it was wonderful and we went along together as before, vigorously discussing the nature of the universe of anything that came to mind, and when we got home again there was the "pup" blackly gallumphing through the dazzling white back-yard drifts and the friendly house waiting in the snow with the smoke coming up out of the chimney.

"I just love you Daddy," she said suddenly.

I forgot what my reply was. I just didn't want anything ever to change.

"I hope you find something sig-, significant," she said.

"Don't worry about that," I told her.