Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are you Missing it?

If you live in the lower 48, I believe there are few things in life as exciting as fresh fallen snow. I remember as a four year old making my way downstairs from our North Seattle home to fetch my dad the morning paper. Upon opening the door that early December day I was surprised beyond words by the precious little tufts of white floating to their final destination.

My immediate reaction being to bolt back up the stairs to tear into my sleeping sisters room and scream at the top of my lungs that it was ‘SNOWING’. She being tired of my pranks and calling wolf, rolled over, pulled her pillow over her head and grunted, ‘Go away, you’re annoying’. In my glee, I continued to prompt an excited response and attempt to motivate her to rise, get dressed, and come see for herself. She continued her abjection to my assertions and stated, ‘There’s no way it’s snowing. It’s way too warm and it wasn’t snowing last night when we went to bed’. Of which I replied, well then I’m not sure exactly what it’s doing but it’s falling from the sky and there’s lots of it…and it’s white! She got up.

Perhaps I’m presumptuous in stating the entire 48 feeling the excitement of snow as those in Buffalo, Minneapolis, Cleveland or Denver, may not share my enthusiasm. But if you’re from and or living in Seattle, snow in the city is a BIG deal. If you’re a skeptic, all one need do is turn on the local news with even the remote prospect snow is on the horizon; you’d think that Jesus himself had sent a press release on his eminent arrival.

When the fallen snow reaches a depth of one inch (or less), you can count on Jim Forman of KING 5 news to be perched at the base of Queen Anne Hill donned in parka, stocking cap, and gloves, sensationalizing the event with his chirping quips, “The best advice is, IF you don’t need to go out…DON’T. Live from lower Queen Anne, I’m Jim Forman’. It’s a joke but it does sell advertising and after all, when it comes to local news, what else is there. I digress.

My point is, Seattleites are forewarned and if we were to receive half of the snow storms the local meteorologists forecast, we’d receive more snow than the North pole. It’s that ridiculous. But as I say, it boosts ratings and thus revenue.

When my kids were seven & eight respectively, we received one of those wonderful winter storms. The conditions were perfect the night before and one could see the dull gray sheet of cloud cover roll in from the west and anyone with any Seattle heritage, knew exactly what was in store. The temperatures were sub freezing and not remotely affected by the warmth the cloud cover many times presents.

With the impending storm, the kids were excited as only kids can be at the prospect of playing in the snow with the bonus of having school cancelled. It doesn’t get much better when you’re single digits and able to maneuver a sled all by yourself.

That night, I got on the computer and sent mail to my employees and informed them to not attempt to make their way to the office. Seattle comes to a complete standstill with even the slightest amount of white on its roads and what would be a normal commute of 20 – 30 minutes can easily turn into a four or five hour affair. With everyone with laptops, it was a no brainer as we could still function without being physically in our collective offices.

The next morning we awakened to a blanket of pure delight; 4 – 5 inches of untracked velvety white stuff. As far as the eye can see.

The kids wolfed down their breakfast while their mother struggled to pull coats, boots, hats and gloves over their excitement. The sense of urgency filled the room and expanded to every corner of the room. Boom, they were out the door with shouts of joy and sleds in hand.

We were fortunate on snow days as we lived at the bottom of a dead-end street with a very short but steep hill at the end of our long setback driveway. It was the perfect run for kids their age as one didn’t need to walk too terribly far or long and still be able to experience an amazingly fast ride. But it was steep and even at a young age, a dozen treks in 5 inches of snow with snow gear and sled in tow up that hill was a meaningful workout.

My wife summoned me out the door that morning to share the experience of all that was good; family, snow, kids, dogs, & the joy that all that brings. I was still in my night clothes and told her I’d be ‘right’ out but wanted to check email first to make sure nothing was on fire.

I found my way into the home office on the opposite side of the house and proceeded to read and respond to several dozen emails that had materialized in my inbox over night. About an hour into it, my wife appeared in the door with snow and sweat and a smile and said, ‘Are you coming? The kids are having a ball and you’re missing a great time.’ I told her I’d be right out and sunk my head back into my screen and keyboard and continued upon my merry way.

Some more time transpired and once again, Jennifer popped her snowclad self in the door. This time a bit more agitated and imploring that I need to get out from behind my computer, get dressed and get outside. Fifteen or so more minutes and I found my way downstairs to sift through the closet full of snow clothes.

Finally I appeared on the scene only to find exhausted, wet, soaked kids with red rosy cheeks. They were done and the snow that had been so pristine had taken on a different sheen. It was beginning to rain and the freshness of the early morning had begun to melt into the afternoon.

As the kids made their way to the house to warm themselves with hot chocolate, my wife looked over her shoulder back at me as she followed the kids in and quietly said, ‘You missed it’. I stood there by myself with the kids sleds in hand while the rain dripped off of my nose.

It brings me great sadness to recount this moment on so many fronts I don’t know where to start. And to chronicle it for posterity sake, only serves to deepen the crevasse I feel in my heart. I champion myself as someone who spends little time contemplating the past as I believe there’s nothing we can do to change it and as such a waste of energy. Regrets, I have few. None the less, this memory has haunted me more times than I care to admit. I remember telling myself, we’ll do it next year, it’ll happen then. Unfortunately, next year didn’t come as the kids were older and the snow didn’t appear. I missed it.

If you were to ask me and offer me a million dollars to recant what was so important to spend the morning sitting in front of my computer in lieu of sledding with my kids, I’d come up empty. Blank, couldn’t tell you. Yet I’ve been able to recount that morning with the sights, smells and memories with the clarity as if it happened this very day. So what does that say? What is important? Pounding out your email or sledding with your kids on a once in a lifetime moment? Hmmm, does it take a PHD in psychology to answer that one.

One realization I can say for certain is if I would have had cancer when it snowed that glorious day with the kids running around my feet, I can without question tell you I would have been amongst them the entire time. No questions asked. No emails returned. No excuses given nor expected.

Are you missing it? If you are, please take a moment and begin living your life as though you have cancer.

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