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Some Things Don’t Wait

Monday, January 3, 2022.  Chores and tasks lay ahead.  Laundry.  Respond to emails.  Make plans for a club meeting.  Submit a column to the newspaper. 

            The column, a letter addressed to 2022, was written and ready for one more read-aloud. Then Husband’s edits:  insert words I omitted or maybe add an s to a word I meant to write plural.

            But Mother Nature gave us snow and Monday tasks and that column, fell to the wayside. I sat where I begin most days to drink coffee, list blessings, read a devotion, write notes, and watch a few birds.  But Monday, I munched on grapes and drank coffee and stared outside for a long time.

            Except for driveways and streets, everything was white – clean, brilliant, beautiful.  Every branch, every twig, were laden with snow and many more birds came to our birdfeeder that is about 18” from my window. 

            Brown house finches ate quickly and flew.  A downy woodpecker pecked into an open feeder hole as he would into a dead tree.  A red Northern cardinal perched, but didn’t eat until a female cardinal sat beside him.  Both held seeds in their beaks and turned their heads side to side before flying away. 

            A Carolina chickadee, smaller than the other birds, perched at the feeder’s top as if claiming ownership before he chose a perch and stayed a while.  A tufted titmouse joined the chickadee, not giving up his perch quickly.

            I didn’t immediately identify several birds about the size of house finches.  Their dark charcoal -colored backs and tailfeathers set off their white bellies and orange beaks.  Looking through my bird field guide, I found the junco, a sparrow that winters in the southeastern states.  And I found a date I’d written when I’d spotted juncos another time: February, 2021.

            Doves strutted slowly on the ground and picked up seeds that had been dropped by other birds.   I admired their patience.

            Then I learned my Grands across town were playing outside. “I’m coming over,” I texted Daughter.  She responded, “Come quickly. After two hours outside, it’s almost time for hot chocolate.”

            “Want to ride down the hill, Gran?” Lucy asked.  While I considered how steep the hill was and the many trees, my Grand jumped onto her sled and flew down the hill.  I didn’t sled or roll like a log down the hill or throw fistfuls of snow down anyone’s coat, but I did make the biggest snow angel and stomp a giant S while my Grand stomped all the letters to spell her name.

            I lost miserably playing a game of UNO that went on and on because nobody, my four Grands nor I, wanted it to end.  What’s better than sitting inside a warm house, wrapped in a blanket, and drinking hot chocolate after playing outside on winter’s first snow day?

            Chores and tasks wait.  Playing with Grands and watching birds do not.   

            And that previously written column?  Maybe it’ll keep until next week.


Bring on More Snow

“You may have two cookies, “I told my 5 1/2 year-old Grand.

“Two? Can’t I have more? Four?” Micah asked. I bit my lip to not say, “Be happy for what you get.” Instead I said, “It bugs me when you ask for more. How about saying, ‘Thanks, Gran?’ Then after we both eat two, we might have another one.”

As I write this on Friday, the tree branches and shrubs are covered with snow. White flakes stick on the grass, but immediately melt on the roads and sidewalks. Like my Grand, I want more.

I want enough snow to completely blanket the ground. Enough for Micah to sled down hills on top of snow instead of sledding on snow mud as he did today.  Enough to build a big five-foot tall snowman in the middle of his family’s snow covered yard, not scrape together all the snow in his yard to build a tiny two foot, skinny Frosty.  The last time we had a really big snow Micah was less than two years old.

It’s time to do all we can to bring on more snow for all kids, big and small, and some my Facebook friends shared ideas.  Clean your car really well, inside and out. Plan an out-of-town trip. Wish for an arctic blast and a moist low pressure system from the south at the same time.

I turned to my teacher friends for more creative ideas that involve pajamas, ice cubes, crayons, and dancing.  One listed them and suggested this order:

Wear your pajamas inside out and backwards.

Get ice cubes out of the freezer and throw them off your front porch over your shoulder while singing “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.” Turn on front porch light so neighbors can see you.

Flush leftover ice cubes.

Put a white crayon in the freezer and a spoon under your pillow.

Most importantly, teachers should not take their plan books home. It will jinx the snow.

Another teacher explained her official snow dance. Sing “Let It Snow” and twirl three times while holding your hands high in the air and wriggling your fingers to mimic snow falling.  This is most effective when teacher and students dance together at the end of a school day.

One teacher keeps a snow bird in her desk. When she is desperate for a snow day, she shakes the snow bird while her fellow teachers gather around to cheer her on. Her snow bird needs a vigorous shaking!

Another teacher said, “My kids ask God to bring us snow to play in and so Momma can stay home. Doesn’t God have a keen ear for children’s prayers?” And I’ve been reminded that Mother Nature needs to shake out her feather bed every winter and that’s what makes snow.

Whatever it takes, it’s time to sing and dance, throw and flush ice cubes, wear inside out pajamas, sleep on a spoon, freeze a white crayon, and pray. A skiff of snow is good, but I want more.

Snow Days

IMG_0712The snow came down and the text messages flew. Daughter and two of her friends planned a sledding party. So right after lunch, nine children and their parents hit our backyard. Most suited out in snow pants and boots. Waterproof gloves and coats. Some with snow ski glasses and face warmers. The dads unloaded wooden sleds with metal runners and big round plastic discs. Quite different from the days when I was a kid.

On a snowy days, the Mochow family would call. “Come on down. We’ll meet you at the top of the hill.” And they meant down. Their house was at the end of a curvy road leading to Star Point Dock, which the Mochows owned, near Byrdstown.

I bundled in the warmest, most water-resistant garb Mom could put together. Flannel pajamas and two pairs of pants. A sweatshirt and heavy coat and a knitted hat. Two pairs of gloves or mittens – neither water proof. To keep my feet dry, I stuck each foot in a bread bag. A thin plastic bag that held a store bought loaf of bread the day before. Then two pairs of knee socks and whatever boots or shoes I could stuff my feet into. Maybe Dad’s oldest barn boots.

Mom, Dad, my brother, and I piled into the car and Dad carefully drove to the top of Star Point hill where Ted Mochow met us and two other families. Ted drove a 4-wheel drive jeep and only the three mothers, who carried food for a pitch-in meal, rode in it. We five kids and our daddies rode on a long sled tied to the back of the jeep.

What a fun ride! A long homemade wooden sled made for pulling, not for sledding. Was it safe? Probably not. Somehow the rope was tied with a loop and in case of an emergency the person riding in front of the sled could unhitch the sled.

Dad usually sat in the front and I hunkered right behind him. We sat like bobsledders – our legs straddling the person in front of us. My brother, the oldest boy, got the last seat. Around curves, up and down hills for more than a mile we rode and then we walked up a steep hill to the Mochow’s home.

A perfect hill for sledding. No store bought sleds for us, but instead old metal cookie sheets and pieces of cardboard. The cardboard went faster and we could bend it to form custom made sleds. Snow angels, snowmen, snowballs, snow cream. All part of our snow fun.

Just like the snow fun in my backyard last Friday. The six-year-olds fashioned snow angels. Kids sled double with their mamas and daddies. The four-year-old ate handfuls of snow. One husband stood behind a tree and pelted his wife with snowballs. Several snowmen were begun – none finished. The deep snow finally packed down so that even the youngest, lightest weight child sled down the hill quickly.

And then they all came inside and stripped down. Fifteen sets of gloves and boots. Snow bibs. Hats. And layers of clothes. I loved that the closest-to-skin layer the youngest kids wore was their pajamas.

And when kids took off their boots and wet socks, I thought they should’ve worn bread bags. Their feet would’ve stayed dry. Not warm, but dry.


Barely Enough Snow


Finally, Mother Nature cooperated.  Snow!  Deep enough for my young Grands to slide down the short sledding hill in our backyard.  Early Sunday morning, my daughter sent a text.  “We’re coming to sled.”  Hallelujah!

I watched through the window from inside my warm house.  The two older Grands rode round plastic sleds, and because the snow barely covered the grass in places, sometimes they pushed each other almost all the way down the hill.  The younger Grands, ages 1 and 3, tromped and made snow angels and threw handfuls of the white stuff in the air.  Then they squealed when the cold wet snow fell on their upturned faces.

It was time to make hot chocolate.  You have to have cookies and hot chocolate after playing in snow, and I began getting ready for this day months ago.  In early December I unpacked snowman dishes out of storage boxes, and I bought marshmallows, colored ones shaped like cars, for hot chocolate.  I made cookies – the kind you slice and bake and serve warm, straight from the oven.

            But the cookies were eaten during the Christmas holidays, and when I found the marshmallow bag in the back corner of the cabinet, it was less than half full.  I scrounged through the freezer searching for anything that could pass for cookies.  I found a few cinnamon rolls – enough to cut into small pieces, cookie size.  Thank goodness for a microwave to thaw and heat them.

I use my mother’s hot chocolate recipe.  Sugar and Hershey’s Cocoa, mixed with a little water and boiled for two minutes.  Add milk and heat slowly.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  The best hot chocolate ever – topped with marshmallows.

Five-year-old Lou was first in the house and rushed to the kitchen.  She pulled apart the stuck-together marshmallows and taste tested one of each color to be sure they were okay to eat.  We loaded trays with snowman plates and cups, a pot of hot chocolate, and cinnamon- roll cookies and carried them to our basement playroom.  Lou’s parents and siblings sat on a plastic picnic tablecloth spread on the floor.

As my four Grands gobbled bites of cinnamon rolls and drank hot chocolate, cooled with crushed ice and topped with squashed marshmallows, they talked.

             Did you see me go fast down the hill?

             Daddy sledded down the hill with me.

             Did anyone else see Elaine (20 months old) when she fell?  She couldn’t get up with all those clothes on.

            I got Daddy good with a snowball – did you see me?  

            Momma, why didn’t you ride on a sled?

            Do you think we’ll have another snow?

All winter long, I’ve wished for a big snow, four inches deep or so, but unless we have a fluke blizzard like the one in March twenty years ago, it probably won’t happen.  For my Grands, the Sunday morning snow was enough.  Enough to make happy memories – sledding and playing and drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies.


Backyard Nature Movie


            Last Friday was a day for the birds.  My list of chores and errands vanished into thin air when I raised the shade covering the kitchen window and saw a skiff of snow and birds on my birdfeeder.

The birds must have been happy that I’d finally filled their feeder with sunflower seed.  Sometime last fall I mindlessly bought a 40-pound bag of Deluxe Bird Food.  The price was right.  I watched as bird after bird threw white millet and red milo seeds onto the ground and emptied the feeder.  And then, after a few days, very few birds nibbled, much less ate, my bargain seed.  A couple of weeks ago, I filled my feeder with sunflower seed and hung two nets filled with finch seed.  And last Friday while my bird friends dined, I couldn’t pull myself away from the show.

A dozen or more house finches ate side by side on the two eighteen-inch cloth mesh nets.  Some birds hung vertical with heads up, some upside down, some sideways.  I wondered if a finch doesn’t like to dine alone.  As a group they flew away and then returned a few minutes later.  Two, three, four – until once again a small flock pecked at the tiny black seeds.

Isn’t a northern cardinal its prettiest on a snowy day?  Why would a male sit on my snow-covered deck railing just three inches from the sunflower-filled feeder?  Maybe waiting for his mate?  When the female cardinal hopped onto a metal perch to eat, he joined her for a quick snack.  She stayed for a five-course meal and was happy to dine with tufted titmice, a white-breasted nuthatch, and purple finches.

And then a woodpecker zoomed in and all the other birds scattered.  A red-bellied woodpecker.  Try explaining to a five-year old child that a woodpecker with a red head is not a red-headed woodpecker.  My Grand was sure that I was confused.  “Look, at his coloring,” I explained.  “See the black and white ladder on his wings and back?  That’s how you know he’s a red-bellied, not a red-headed woodpecker.”  I agreed that I couldn’t see red on his belly and yes, maybe he should’ve been named the black-and-white laddered woodpecker.  The smaller birds filled every perch as soon as the Mr. Red Bellied flew away.

A rufous-sided towhee, really a large sparrow, swooped in.  With his tail pumping, he hopped across the deck railing to the feeder, appearing to choose his favorite perch.  He came  dressed for a dinner party – white belly, black head, and distinct brown and black markings.  Just when I thought the show outside my window couldn’t be better, a pair of deer trotted across the yard.  She pranced.  He, with his tall antlers, strutted.

Last Friday’s snow wasn’t deep enough for my Grands to sled down my backyard hill.  (I’m still hoping for a ‘real’ snow so we can have a sled party.)  But a dusting of snow was plenty for the setting of a backyard nature movie.  All for the price of a bag of sunflower seeds.