An intermission has ended, as the routine of life has been lived another week. The audience takes a seat once more, as the curtain is raised.
The stage, reset, now reveals a sunny winter’s day at the small home on the fringes of a bustling Southern city. The young working mother takes her place in the haven of leather armchair, a brief respite from the busy game of everyday life. On stage right, the baby naps in her crib. Stage left, the other children play together in a tango of happy cooperation and bossy annoyance.
Her head resting askew upon her supportive hand, the mother reminisces upon the events of a few days past, when the city slowed to a crawl. The spotlight centers on her place, as she recalls the day when the snow began to fall.
It was just after noon when the dancing flakes appeared, encouraging whimsy as the children twirled in the magical atmosphere. It was Circus Day at the preschool on this unusually snowy Southern day. It’s a small school nestled in a valley in the heart of a lovely, affluent suburb, surrounded by curving, sloping streets.
Mildly dressed as a clown, attempting to retain some semblance of professionalism, the mother watched smilingly as the snow continued to fall, the numerous forecasts reassuring her every few moments that the snow would only find rest on the grass. Awhile later, she stands gazing out the office door at the snow lightly dusting the earth. The red-suspender-clad, pig-tailed working mother watches as the snow lay gently upon the asphalt, sparkling and peaceful.
Her hands pause in mid-stretch of suspenders; her red shoes freeze where she stands. A nervous need for action rises to her consciousness:
Snow on the roads, plus hills, cliffs and curves, plus a Southerner’s unpreparedness for such weather equals an unfavorable mix.
She begins anxiously dismissing the remaining students, while more snow blankets the blacktop. The mother fretfully shuffles her dancing, giggling children into the car, as they continue stretching out their mouths and fingers to catch one last falling flake.
The drive home begins…
SLIP! The tires slide just feet from the school’s door.
The mother grips the wheel and gently accelerates the small family van onward. It arduously slips its way up the hill. She begins heading down the first main road, and the car slides to the right. She slows to a crawl, and it slips left.
The toboggan-clad baby coos in the back and plays with a toy. The children’s squeals turn from snowy delight to uncertainty and panic. Each time the tires slip, they scream, heightening the mother’s anxiety.
While fussing for silence, the mother presses on with heart racing and muscles tensed. She approaches a daunting uphill climb. As she presses the gas, the tires struggle with each rotation to pull the family toward the crest.
Finally, the stop sign signals a rest, but a steep, white, downhill curve looms ahead. With her own mother on speaker, the young mother surveys the options:
1. remain snowbound in the car with three children
2. make the long, snowy trek by foot back to the school, dressed in their circus best
3. slide downhill on the edge of a curving cliff
The costumed family takes a collective breath as the mother makes the firm decision to press on. They begin the descent, the air thick with the mounting intensity of a roller coaster’s frightening thrill. Rigidly, the small mother hugs the curb with all her might. Her eyes on the frozen slope, she has a fleeting appreciation for the snow-covered bluff to her right.
While the roads stretch on like icy snakes, the mother is alarmed to discover the car is out of gas. The fear of being stranded doubles, but the mother hopes for the best and continues sledding home.
At last the family curves their last curve and slopes their last slope, and ends up on less-treacherous ground. They crawl their way home, a small link in a long, slow chain of white-knuckled Southern commuters.
The clown-clad mother has never felt such relief as she parks the family van in the driveway of the small home.
The children wash off their anxiety with a breath and bound out of the car, commencing snowman construction as soon as their feet touch snow. The baby begins to eat the snow, eating anything being her favorite hobby.
With great release, the frazzled mother hugs her children on this snowy day, grateful for their continued life together.
On stage, the children’s entry breaks the mother from her reverie. The sun shines through the window, as she looks up to find her children’s noses covered in wet, permanent, bright red ink, their mouths grinning ear to ear at their clown-nosed ingenuity. Somewhat startled back to reality, she rises from her leather nest and surveys the scene: a house strewn with toys, crafts, paper-snips and ribbons. While lost in her retelling, the creative spirits of her children have run rampant.
With a slow, smiling shake of her head, the mother reminds herself with a long, deep sigh that messes can be cleaned, red noses can be wiped, and that this fragile life is to be cherished in all its messy moments. With hands on her hips, life in the small house carries on, as the curtain falls upon another day.
“I’m at my best in a messy, middle-of-the-road muddle.” -Harold Wilson