There have been several big snowfalls in a row this winter. I came home from a rare Sunday spent at the office and could barely get the car into the driveway.
I didn’t want to shovel. The teens were occupied, hanging out with their cousins; my wife wanted to nap. I wanted to spend some overdue quality time with the toddler. But I needed to clear the driveway so we could park two cars in it. Could I get two birds with one stone, maybe?
“Come help me shovel,” I said to her, and she eagerly agreed. She loves being outside, no matter what the weather is.
We got out my big shovels and her toddler-sized pink shovel, a hand-me-down from her siblings. She started off right next to me, but eventually drifted off and started digging into the snowbank, mining for ice crystals and pulling out interesting chunks as she went. I smiled. I did that when I was little.
I needed to shovel the path to the house, and wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on her in her mine. I invited her to come clear off the little table and chairs we keep on the path. She brushed them off with her mittens as I worked my way up the path. The snowbanks got higher and higher.
As I moved the now-cleared table and chairs away to shovel underneath them, I wondered idly why I bothered keeping them out during the winter. As soon as the table and chairs were back in place, she scrambled up onto the chair and sat there swinging her legs, grinning around at our work. Ah, I thought. That’s why.
The job was done. It had been an hour since we came out and her very rosy cheeks were telling me it was about time to pack it in. I asked her if it was time to go in for a hot chocolate, and she readily agreed. We put away our shovels as the snow started to fall again.
We started up the path only for her to flop down in the snowbank after a half-dozen steps. She looked up at me, a cheeky smile on her rosy face. I smiled back, not quite sure what she was playing at.
“Taking a break?”
“No,” she said dreamily. “I’m just lying down in the snow.”
I watched her for a moment, starfished in the snowbank, looking up into the grey sky with wonder in her eyes. Then I shrugged and plopped down next to her.
The fresh snow cradled me, softer than our mattresses, softer than the couch, softer than pillows. I was perfectly supported, almost floating in the snow. Like when you hear people describe floating in the Dead Sea; entirely, impossibly buoyant. And the snowbank insulated us equally from the slight wind and the noise from the street. The world simply fell away.
I was not entirely ready for the experience of just lying down in the snow.
She was still looking into the sky and so I followed her gaze. Snowflakes drifted gently down around us, falling toward us. Our home was warm and big and close and beyond it was a smooth, unblemished sky, and everywhere in between the fluffy, delicate snowflakes danced. I looked over at her.
“Baby, this was a really good idea.”
“Mhm,” she agreed, nodding confidently. A snowflake landed on her lip and she licked it off, grinning.
We watched the snow fall for a while, making chitchat, enjoying the way that the world had disappeared and it was just the two of us, side by side, in our cold, soft bed.
When we finally got up, we left our impressions in the snow, hers and mine. Mine was bigger; hers, barely perceptible, as little as she was. But, I thought as we kicked the snow off our boots to head inside, the impression she left that day was far, far deeper. And it would be felt long after the season changed and the snow melted away.
As always, folks, paddle your own canoe.