The Sixty-Fifth Chart

November 17, 2012

By Ekta R. Garg

Last weekend I got to live in a Normal Rockwell painting for 24 hours—in other words, the idyllic winter day.

When we woke up on Friday morning, the snow began to fall.  This surprised no one; local meteorologists had predicted we would have some precipitation down on the valley floor (basically here in Salt Lake proper, as opposed to just on the “benches” or the heights.)  We could get one or two inches down here, the weather people said.

One thing I love about living in Salt Lake comes in the fact that people here don’t let snow faze them.  They drive at respectable distances on the highway, and no one tries to rush anyone.  And when the snow falls, everyone remains mindful of everyone else.

So as I got the girls ready for school, I didn’t pay much attention to the snow falling outside.  I just pulled my gloves on a little tighter, turned the driver’s side seat warmer on Low (I love that thing!) and let the car warm up.  The kids and I chatted about our normal morning things, and we didn’t think twice as the miniscule puffs of white floated in a hurry down to the ground.

By the time I picked Four up from school, the puffs had grown to the sizes of quarters and I wondered whether the plans I’d made with friends to go see Skyfall would pan out.  The snow fell so fast and in such copious amounts that I sat at attention in the car and stared hard out the windshield.

When I left the house to pick up Six, the puffs had shrunk to dime size but they still fell steadily.  And the one or two inches that should have by the meteorologists’ accounts fallen and melted fell.  But they didn’t leak in a slow dripping drain through the grates in the parking lots.  Instead they kept falling.

The snow stopped long enough for me to go watch Skyfall and enjoy some old-fashioned fun 007 Bond style, but that night after I got home it began snowing again.  And kept snowing through the night.  My husband and I peeked through the windows once or twice before going to bed, and the snow continued to fall.

Because he was on call during the weekend, my husband had to leave the house first thing Saturday morning and go round on patients in the hospital.  The girls, and their grandfather, and I took our time waking up, but once the girls had had their breakfast they turned to me with one agenda on their minds: to go outside and play in the snow that still floated down with a cheerfulness suited only to such a morning.

I began the layering process: two pairs of pants and two sweaters each, snow pants, their heaviest jackets, snow gloves, and snow boots (and, yes, I made sure they both went to the bathroom before we did all this.)  The clock read 10 a.m., and I thought both kids would clamor to come back inside within 15 minutes.  Nevertheless, I rushed to the kitchen after sending them outside with their grandfather and pulled out a hot chocolate mix.  Within a few minutes I’d prepared a warm mug for both girls and waited.

My prediction of them searching for warmth of the house within 15 minutes never came to fruition.  I watched the girls through the window as I grasped my own hot mug of tea.  They frolicked in the snow, tried to make snow angels, dug with eagerness through the mounds that had formed on the lawn outside.  In short, they took full pleasure in one of nature’s most breathtaking sights.

When they had survived outside for 30 minutes, I grabbed the mugs of hot chocolate (which had cooled to a kid-friendly temperature) and handed them to the kids.  Instead of coming inside, though, they parked themselves on the front doorstep and gripped their small mugs with a certain glee.  As they drank they talked about what they’d done in the snow so far.

I did the breakfast dishes and went upstairs to take a long, leisurely hot shower, a luxury I can’t afford due to the minute-by-minute demand on my time.  When I got out and began getting dressed, I heard my husband’s voice downstairs as he chattered with the kids.  How had he managed to convince them to come inside, I wondered?

I went downstairs and greeted the kids and my husband who went into the kitchen for something to eat.  I talked the kids upstairs where we went to Four’s room and somehow managed to begin a jump-off-the-bed game (I wasn’t jumping, I was on the catching end.)  The girls took turns jumping off the bed into my arms, and even though I struggled with each jump to catch them—even Four is tall enough now to stand on her tiptoes and touch my shoulders—I didn’t stop them.  We almost never have time during the week to play—I’m always watching a clock, my watch, my cell phone, trying to keep us on time, and while the girls thrive because of their carefully orchestrated schedule, we never get a chance to ignore the clock.  From Monday to Friday, the clock rules our days.

So I let the girls jump and didn’t pay attention to the fact that more than a half-hour had passed.  I finally had to stop them only because my body demanded a little bit of a break from the constant assault of energetic tall girls hurling themselves at me.  My husband came upstairs, and we began joking and laughing with the girls, and before we knew it another half-hour had passed.  We found ourselves lying next to one another on our backs on the floor in the hall area between the upstairs bedrooms.  My husband and I spent another 10 minutes trying to out-bribe one another to see who would oversee bath time, and I finally gave in.

Saturday was a “skip” day—no shampooing needed—so the girls got through their showers fairly quickly, and on the spur of the moment I declared it a pajama day.  If the kids wanted to shower and then put their pajamas back on they could.  I had already wiggled into some soft sweats, and Six followed suit.  Four took full advantage of getting back into her PJs, and we all went downstairs for a fun lunch.

My husband talked about how much trouble he’d had in getting out of the parking lot and how he’d planned as he left the house that morning for us to have lunch out but he wasn’t sure anymore whether that was a good idea.  I told him to forget it, let’s just hang out at home and enjoy the day together.

And we did.  We watched a “Cosby Show” marathon and baked cookies, we spent time talking and laughing together and watching movies.  I made mugs of tea and coffee that evening, and we spent the rest of the night just sitting together and watching the snow continue to fall.  We had a Saturday where we didn’t have to think about deadlines or anything else.  We just enjoyed the day moment by moment.

On Sunday I felt the slight press of the week ahead.  It encroached on the good mood from the day before and brought back the edge of stress that borders my days.  The kids still went out to play, and I still made them hot chocolate, but they fought outside and I couldn’t seem to split the single mug’s worth of hot chocolate into two mugs as well as I had the previous day.  A slight disappointment provided us with a shadow that had blotted out the brightness of the last 24 hours.

On good days I manage the stress well; on others I fight it back with a bat.  And occasionally I give in to it.  But I try every day to manage it as best I can.  And maybe on those days when I find myself bowing to its pressure, I can think back on this Saturday and remember the loveliness of the winter white that painted itself across the canvas offered by the Wasatch Front and surrounding areas.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll remind myself of the tranquility we had on this day and close my eyes and remember that such tranquility doesn’t need to be derived from a snowy weekend.  Maybe it’s just enough to have those moments and days together.

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