I’m writing this as the sun is finally shining, the birds are chirping, and spring is erupting with a vengeance here in the Northern hemisphere.
But just a few weeks ago, it was still bleakest winter here in the American South, where it’s supposed to be mild and perpetually hot and steamy. It was a harsh winter, my South African friends. In fact, you think you got yourself some hardship with all that load-shedding? Well, you haven’t experienced real hardship. You haven’t experienced Snow Days!
Snow Days are the days your kids are out of school for ten consecutive days in February. In the kids’ eyes this makes for a nice interruption of the impossibly long stretch between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but for us poor parents it makes for some pulled-out hair, more than the regular clumps you’ve already pulled out by virtue of your occupation.
Mind you, there doesn’t have to be any snow involved to get yourself a Snow Day. There just needs to be the threat of snow. Or ice. I don’t blame the school administrators for this. They can’t win. Don’t close the schools and you’ll be crucified by irate parents whose kids you’ve endangered by not being more cautious. Close the schools, and you’ll be assailed by furious parents whose schedule you’ve messed up.
Every once in a while, you get real snow on Snow Days. Because of the Chicken Little effect, you haven’t listened to all the warnings on TV and haven’t rushed out to score the last bread and milk on bare store shelves, and so you find yourself stranded at your house for a week with a few wrinkled apples and some flour. And four kids. The roads are iced over, there is only one snowplow for a city of 500,000, so you can do the math – it will be a week before you can get out again. And, more importantly, before your kids can get out again.
Snow Days mean you’re cooped up with four people who sleep in late, demand to be fed around the clock, trail yucky puddles of snowmelt into your house, leave piles of coats and mittens and smelly socks in front of all your doors, and watch Game of Thrones all day long, leaving a trail of popcorn throughout your living room like Hansel and Gretel.
Snow Days also mean that you find out, the hard way, what an “ice dam” is on your roof. It’s something that will make water drip through your ceiling while you’re having coffee and will make you climb over the rafters in your attic with a flashlight between your teeth and a laundry bin under your arm on the way to find the leaky spot and catch all that water, and it will mean that the carpet in your bedroom is a soggy swamp because you found the leak too late.
And Snow Days mean that a day later you are idly wondering why the water pressure is so low until you look on the side of the house and see a fountain spraying from your sprinkler system which you did remember to have winterized, but apparently not well enough. It means that you are running around your yard like crazy, in your pajamas and in the dark, trying to find the bloody meter so you can turn off the water,but that is nothing compared to the dark stares your kids will give you upon learning they will not be able to take a shower this one night! Of course this is totally your fault, and you better fix it today mom, by the time I come home from school. (School has just been reopened, on a late start schedule, mind you, and all of a sudden, the thought of going to school, where there is water, is oddly attractive.)
Oh, the hardship, you have no idea! What, no running water? For a whole night? This will mean that one daughter will refuse to go to the bathroom that night and be very mad at her sister who finally gave in and used the joint toilet, only for number one, mind you, but a teenager will think that’s one horribly contaminated toilet ever after. Not to be deterred, one of your boys will take all the ice from the icemaker and melt it in a bowl over his heating vent so that he can take a shower the next morning anyway. It might be worth having a burst pipe just for that little lesson in water conservation.
Come to think of it, it was definitely worth it because your neighbor, an NFL football player of the most gorgeous build, came over to your house to inform you, did you know you had a fountain of water spraying out from the side of your house? Except that you weren’t in your workout tights but in your pajamas…
We did get the pipe fixed the next day and the kids could go back to their ways of taking half-hour showers. Apparently, my kids are still a lot less spoiled than the average American family. The sprinkler repair guy who found and replaced the blown valve told me that some other families have demanded to be boarded in a hotel for the few hours they had to make do without running water.
Where can I sign up for load-shedding? I think we need to get our teenagers a weekly does of that!