Snowy Afternoon

Right now, my children are hard at work.

They’re diligently harvesting icicles for their snow fort. Each icicle requires going to one of the upstairs bedrooms, clambering onto some furniture to reach the upper portion of the windows, opening the windows from the top down, carefully breaking off the precious spear o’ ice, swaddling it into a towel, carrying it carefully down the stairs and through the house, nudging into a pair of shoes at the door, maneuvering out the doorway without breaking the icicle (this part’s particularly tricky), and stowing the icicle with the ever-growing pile.

As you might imagine, this process if fraught with household perils. Not fully closing the upstairs windows is one of them. Forgetting that the windows should be closed at all is another. Occasionally there’s a sharp sound of breaking glass above me that indicates that the icicle wasn’t successfully transferred from the eaves into its towel-swaddle. And, really, the towel-swaddling is evidence of progress from previous harvest after repeated maternal complaints about a trail of drips. They’re not so fast out the door, leading to enough of a draft that Cute W, two or three rooms away, asks what’s going on. The shoes bring just a bit more snow in every time they’re slipped on, and when the shoes are not exactly where they’re expected, one sister will steal the other’s pair, which works just fine until the second sister is at the door with no shoes immediately apparent. Then, her only recourse is to open the door, step out onto the porch barefoot, and call to her sister until her cries and the wind whipping in through the open door rouses me to point out the vast array of sneakers and boots available, as well as the sister’s slide-on shoes, which were only tucked under the vast array of sneakers and boots.

And yet. They are so happy, so diligent, cooperating with each other and planning their building and setting the stage for an afternoon outdoors, that I do my best to ignore the irritation. I choose not to venture upstairs,  I turn the thermostat down for the duration of the icicle-harvesting process, and I throw a towel down by the back door. When the girls finally determine that their supply is big enough to move the entire construction project outside, I remind them to check the windows and wipe the floors, and they are extraordinarily compliant. They know that this entire operation requires considerable maternal forbearance, so when I throw out the requisite tasks before they can head out, M beams, “Yes, Mom, we love you, anything for you, Mom.” And even if there’s a bit of the Eddie Haskell in her response, I can’t help but be charmed.

As they’re bustling outside, Cute W, who’s ventured into the kitchen to make some lunch, offers them some grilled cheese, and I suggest that they take it outdoors. Cute W’s flummoxed. “You don’t want to do that, do you?” Oh, on the contrary! An outdoor winter picnic is one of the girls’ favorite things, and it’s always better if you’ve got something warm and cozy, so grilled cheese is perfect. I shoo them out, and ten minutes later I’m setting the plates of grilled cheese out on the back porch, AKA the take-out window. We’ll hope it holds them for a long time, but meanwhile, I’ll get cocoa prepped on the stove. When the girls come in, they’ll squeal and declare that I must be psychic, and I’ll gravely agree with them. Why yes. Yes, I am.

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