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Father Marks Time on Snowy Day

January 26, 2018

As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, January 24, 2018

Our children, Zoe and Adam, love school. As parents we feel fortunate, and immensely grateful to all who make their school a thriving community of learning and development.

Still, at ages 11 and 8 respectively, they are thrilled when the superintendent’s office delivers a robo call to our home, announcing a school closure due to inclement weather — snow!

My wife, Lori, and I are generally less enthusiastic about these school cancellations, for while we both enjoy the snow, juggling work schedules when kids are at home can be challenging.

But our most recent storm lifted my spirits, in unsuspecting ways.

The snow started in the evening, accumulating all night. The temperature and moisture levels combined to create the kind of snow that magically clings to each and every tree branch. The wintry scene offered welcome softness and quietness, as compensation for the sharpness and bitterness of the record-setting cold spell that recently besieged our region.

While the beauty of the morning was quite remarkable, I had a full day of work — from home — and Lori had a full schedule of patients, at the clinic. Zoe and Adam were content to lounge in their pajamas, reading, doing puzzles, snacking and asking me when I would be done working.

Finally, around 4 p.m. the three of us headed to the hill behind the middle school, where soon enough they will be students, for some pre-dinner snow fun, Zoe with her sled and Adam his snowboard.

They radiated pure joy as they made their way down the slope. Adam tested his limits with turns and jumps, Zoe honed her steering skills. The hill, as darkness set in and the temperature dipped, echoed with laughter from young and old alike.

I was warmed by the experience and mindful of the many snows of fatherhood.

I recalled the first one, Zoe an infant swaddled in a snowsuit and cap, riding in an old-fashioned sled, tethered to Lori who was on cross-country skis as we circled through the park adjacent to our townhome in Boulder, Colorado.

I remembered the time, three years later, after we had moved here, that Zoe narrowly escaped harm as she first careened down the infamous Hospital Hill in Northampton in the same sled.

I thought about Adam, when he was 3, sledding down the hill at the end of our street that leads down to the bike path, determined to keep up with the older neighborhood kids.

I reminisced about Christmas Day two years ago, when the four of us sledded at a nearby state forest, and the Christmas break before when we explored nearby woods on snow shoes, spotting an elusive bobcat through the trees.

Wistfully, I calculated the rapidity with which Zoe and Adam are aging, and the dwindling of school snow days and wintry escapades over the coming, short years.

I missed Lori, who was toiling over electronic medical records at the clinic, and thought about our years in Colorado, before kids, when our peers — and families with kids too — would take snow days, even without school closures, when great, or even good, ski conditions were irresistible.

And as Adam and Zoe made their final trip down the slope, I secretly conspired with myself to plan a family snow day, sometime soon — whether or not there is a school closure.

John Engel of Florence can be reached through his website fatherhoodjourney.com.

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