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Amy Pybus: Joys of the snow pile

A view of the author's car in a photo taken after the early February blizzard.

A view of the author's car in a photo taken after the early February blizzard. Purchase photo reprints »

When I was a child I told my mother I felt like I was in a snow globe whenever the big flakes swirled past, as they were that morning, and there’s still a little girl in me who delights at the sight.

This winter has made me a little less stressed out, to be honest, because it actually felt like winter. Lots of snowfall (though nothing like in the past, when my town used to sustain a ski resort), a real bona-fide blizzard and normal cold winter temperatures. There were no random 60-degree days in January that made you feel the end of the world was truly creeping closer.

My kids used their new snow boots and pants every weekend. These would be the ones we bought last winter, after the freak October storm where we got more than 2 feet of snow. But after that, we didn’t get any snow for the rest of the season. That was unnerving.

But this year my kids and their friends have been able to go out to the giant snow pile that grows bigger all the time in the empty parking lot across the street. In fact, we’ve had an almost constant stream of requests to come play on that pile. The kids are never happier, and I’m so glad to see it.

While I watched the snow fall on Friday morning I read a headline in the paper: “Study of 11,300 years of weather suggests record warming ahead.” With such dire predictions for the future I wonder if my grandchildren will ever get to feel the joy my kids have on the snow pile. Will they be able to sled or make snow angels, or have snowball fights when they’re supposed to be digging out the car?

If you think about the last few years and the weather events we’ve sustained it’s enough to make your head spin. I never thought I’d be the type of person to prepare for the end of the world, but now there’s a whole shelf in my basement devoted to bottled water and survival gear. It’s become something I just do, checking up on my stock every time the next natural disaster comes, just like I check the batteries in the smoke detector.

This reality depresses me. So instead I’m trying to remember this winter fondly. I don’t join in the complaining when others gripe about being done with the cold and snow. I suppose I’m as ready for spring as anyone, but I’m feeling the last of the cold with a touch of bittersweet. What will next winter bring? This nice, normal, cold and snowy winter soothed my nerves. It was messy and miserable — just as it should be.

As the outdoor season approaches, my mother’s mind goes over the warm-weather hazards that a natural winter is supposed to balance for us. Was the cold streak long enough to kill the mosquitos who terrorized us with West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis during fall soccer? Will the ticks hold off for a few more cold weeks before we have to start dousing ourselves with bug spray every time we go out to get the mail?

I admit winter is a long, hard season for childcare providers. My mentor used to tell me, “February is the make-or-break month.” I’ve made it through 10 of them now and haven’t caved, but being trapped inside four walls with little ones is, to put it nicely, a challenge.

In my profession, winter means battling a constant stream of colds and runny noses. We are bound to catch something no matter how much hand sanitizer we keep on hand. And you can never escape at least one throwup bug.

On beautiful spring days when I’m out in the yard with the kids, rocking somebody in my big swing, parents will say, “I wish I had your job.” What I want to say is, “You don’t want it a month ago.” But instead I just tell them, “This is my payback for winter.” I have a memory that keeps flashing in my mind of the blizzard just a few weeks ago. My younger son and I watched a movie together in the dark, then before he went to bed we sat and stared out the window at the blowing snow as it rushed down the driveway and out into the street. It was mesmerizing. The quiet moment we spent together marveling at the power and beauty of the storm will stay with me.

I’ll miss this winter. The more quickly and drastically our weather changes, the more I worry. Will we see another real one?

Amy Pybus of Easthampton writes on family life issues in a column that appears on the second Thursday of the month. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com and blogs at www.sittingonthebaby.com.

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