As You Like It: Counting the Days

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It had been a wonderful vacation because both my girls were in town for 12 days. It’s funny how parents of older children measure their kids’ at-home times. I didn’t realize it until my friend Peg told me that she had a great vacation because her daughter had come home for 11 days. Almost like the way we used to measure their ages when they were babies. We didn’t tell people that our babies were two months old, but rather eight weeks, as if each moment was so precious that it had to be counted in the smallest possible increment. Now we’re doing it again.

I suppose I should be grateful that I’m not so crazy that I count the hours. But that’s what happens when your children live an airplane ride away. There’s no popping in for dinner or meeting in the city. Your visits become crammed whirlwinds of trying to fit everything wonderful in.

So we had a wonderfully crazy, busy, noisy 12 days. And then on Monday it suddenly became very quiet in our house. Snoopy took up his missing-you position at the foot of the stairs, staring at the front door until Cheryl dragged him out for a walk. I stood still for a few moments on the verge of a good cry, but decided that I would stave it off with one of my “the kids have left” cleaning rampages.

Luckily the next day was New Year’s Eve. We were having friends over for dinner, so I could keep busy shopping and cooking. As long as I didn’t look into the girls’ now neat-as-a-pin rooms, I could almost pretend that they were still here.

After almost two weeks of vacation I was actually looking forward to going back to work on Thursday. Getting out of the house is always the best medicine for me. But when I heard the weather reports I realized that work might not be happening. And sure enough, it didn’t. I had been home all day on Wednesday since it was New Year’s Day, and now I was going to be home all day Thursday as well. I might be in dangerous snowbound territory.

When the kids were little, snow days were a mixed blessing. They were always exciting at first. It was nice to have a day where you could throw your hectic schedule in the trash and stay home cuddling with your husband and kids. There were snowmen to build, games to play, movies to watch. Hot cocoa always tasted better on snow days, especially with popcorn. We would take naps and snuggle under blankets.

By the second day, after the kids’ initial euphoria upon learning that they still wouldn’t be going to school, it would still be fun, though the excitement would begin to wane, especially after the first snowball fight. Inevitably one child would come in crying, the other protesting her innocence. I would be getting tired of bundling them up in snowsuits and then unbundling for the inevitable bathroom break, of constantly drying the aforementioned snowsuits, of maintaining a kind of cheerful camp counselor demeanor while trying to keep them occupied and happy.

And if there was, God forbid, a third day, all bets were off. Despite my best efforts, everyone would be grumpy, bored and just plain mad at everyone else. I remember one year when the superintendent kept the schools closed for an entire week because all the town’s sidewalks hadn’t been plowed. I was ready to go out and shovel them myself.

But now I was alone on the couch gazing at the storm. Steve had built a fire so I had my choice of vistas. I could gaze at the windy snow and be glad that I was huddled under a blanket (and a dog!) or stare into the fire and pretend that I was at a bonfire on the beach. But whatever I did I was beginning to get indoor crazy, and it didn’t help that I was down to my last library book. I decided to read very slowly.

By Friday I was ready to go cross-country anything — walking, skiing, shopping — as long as it involved getting out of the house. Unfortunately, even though the falling snow was fluffy and innocent, to me it looked evil. Our plow guy had already been and gone three times, but it looked like he hadn’t even been here. I wanted out.

But as much as I wanted out, I am not the hardiest of souls. I will never trek to the top of Mount Everest unless there’s a cable car and a hot toddy at the top. I don’t rock climb or hike the Appalachian Trail. I had no snow shoes, no mukluks, not even a pair of thermal underwear, so where did I think I was going? Nowhere, that was for sure. I looked down at Snoopy happily ensconced in his blanket. He opened one eye telling me, “Are you nuts? Get back to bed and stay there till spring!”

It was an interesting day. I washed things that didn’t need washing, dusted clean surfaces, straightened and neatened an already straight, neat house. I surfed the web, texted the kids, read the last word of my book. I went up and down the stairs, and poor Snoopy kept following me certain that I was going somewhere interesting, but I kept disappointing him and myself. Two thoughts kept sliding up against each other in my brain: Thank goodness the kids got out when they did or they’d be stuck here the whole week, and wouldn’t it have been glorious if the kids had been stuck here with us all week? Shame on me, I know.

But now winter break is officially over. Everyone is back where they belong, and work is crazy as usual. And of course, all I can think is, “Why didn’t I revel in those three days of beautiful nothingness when I had them?” All 72 hours of them.

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avatar Posted by on Jan 16 2014. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion.
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