Sunday, December 14, 2003

Snowed In

Memorial Chapel, in another winter.

Just before my parents arrived separately the snow began to fall. It was light at first, like dust motes in sunlight. Later, as the afternoon moved forward, it would get thick and the sky prematurely dark; much later, the snow would turn to ice, and fall clicking against the windows. Like the best snowfalls, however, by which I mean the historic ones you talk about years afterwards, while drinking coffee together, watching the skies and the Weather-Channel-casters, for snow and for half-sure and hedged predictions of total accumulation – like those Dylan Thomas-esque moments, it started bright out of a blue sky.

It was the day of Christmas Vespers, an annual tradition here heavy on the choir and chamber orchestra, but light on the scripture. For the third year in a row friends Peter and Hayley cancelled at the last minute, but Darcie’s parents decided to stay after wavering a bit, to marvel at the baby in her red Christmas dress and eat tiny cream horn slices from the wedding china with the rest of us.

Vespers is at four and seven, but I had made plans long ago to take Molly to a Guster concert at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, and we had mosh-pit seats waiting for us at 7. Plans had been made, of course, long before the coming storm brought a concern not that we might not make the show, but that we might not make it back; luckily, visions of explaining myself to a bevy of administrators after being forced to hunker down, however innocently, in the same hotel as a single female student after taking her to a rock concert brought me to my senses, and I called her and cancelled long before a single flake hit the pavement. (Later, conveniently, my guilt over this adult act would be abated when some other younger faculty, who it turned out were also Guster fans still wavering on whether to brave the weather, called the theater as we left the Chapel at service’s end and discovered that the venue had decided to postpone and reschedule in early February.)

Too, Willow would have never made it through a later seating. Nor, it turns out, would my father or my in-laws made it back home; even then it took each party twice as long to travel home as usual. Patty and Neil, more New Englander savvy and be-Saab-ed, drove home post-vespers; Neil told Darcie on the phone later that evening that they hadn’t plowed their rural dirt road yet at all, and driving home was like going “through a snowbank,” but they made it. Dad didn’t even stay: he left at three, and reports cars “everywhere” as having simply, gently, slid into the median. Worried about inadequate seating now that we’ve had to move both services to the smaller of the two school chapels, as it’s the one not yet condemned, I left minutes after, wading through the darkening wind and the slanted stinging snow to save seats.

Spent most of the service shushing the baby with Darcie in the unfortunately cavernous back hall of the chapel, which quite probably screwed up much of this year’s recording (though, to be fair, one of the biggest problems was Willow’s loud demand for moa? moa? at the end of each congregation sing). Still be-suited, through the driving dark for crisp roast and Seafood Newburg in the dining hall afterwards with Mom, now trapped in a full-blown nor’easter for the overnight, and back home, the baby in the new wooden sled with the rusted runners, for a mellow evening.

And now? Mom asleep in my usual latenight laptop spot, I’m plugged in in the kitchen, listening to the ice pebbling up on top of a good eight to ten inches, and glancing up occasionally at my watery reflection before me in these dark windows. Every once in a long while the plows scrape by at hurtling speeds, and I can see the snow, heavy in the air and on the ground, unceasing, beautiful.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:27 PM |

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