Monday, January 10, 2011


The status postings started around 10 p.m. last night. "Snow!" posted one friend. "A blizzard!" added another. The Southern end of Facebook has been hyperventilating with a frenzy of weather-related activity. From Mississippi to the Carolinas, friends and friends-of-friends dash outside to roll about in it, and then warm their frigid fingers just enough to type out new status update. Friend X "just made a snowmonkey!" Friend Y "made snow angels and had a snowball fight and ate snow cream!" Friend Z "wiped out riding on a strip of aluminum siding from the neighbor's trailer." Friend Z resides in Alabama.

Of course, minivan passengers and drivers participated as well. We tried to make it to the creek from the top of the yard, rifling through the shed for anything that looked remotely slippery and provided a barrier between butt and snow. Deflated pool rafts, beat-up old kayaks, removable canoe seats, cardboard. We wadded up knots of snow with bits of twigs and leaf parts sticking out and lobbed them at each other. One of us dropped and flailed around in the deep snow, making not so much a snow angel as a snow possum with a bad case of the shakes.

I drew the line at "snow cream." I would no more add sugar and vanilla to this snow and call it snow cream than I would add lemon and sugar to a cup of summer rain and call it lemonade. I'm sure it's fine, if your favorite ice cream flavor is Temple Inland Cardboard.

Remember sliding plastic newspaper bags between layers of socks and snapping around a rubber band to keep your feet snow proof? Remember sneaking out your mother's cookie sheets and using them to rocket down the big hill? That's one element I love about a snow day in Georgia—the ingenuity factor. Did they even sell thick warm winter socks in the Davidson's in Atlanta back in the day? Or snow boots? Yes, we get goofy on snow days—humor us, dear friends from colder climates. Having a virtual community outlet for all this goofiness just adds to the fun—almost like meeting up with all the neighborhood kids you know and some you don't because they attend private school or just have weird parents. You dive head-first down an icy roller coaster of a road, tumble over each other in puffy winter coats, or pelt each other with rock-hard snow balls. Some bonding occurs, even if it doesn't last past the first day of brown mush on the sidewalk edges and the early morning chaos of school resuming.

In the late afternoon, Husband and I mushed through the crunchy, icing-over snow to the end of the street and back, playing CSI with all the fishtailed tire tracks and washouts. We hypothesized about who tried to go where and how they failed. "Who thinks they're that important?" Husband asked about whoever tried to pray their way down our winding, undulating, unsalted road today. We paused and looked around, taking deep breaths as the snow-smell in the air returned. The flat pasture snow soaked up the purple of dusk. A chimney exhaled a chubby puff of smoke, and driveway lamps started to flicker their faint yellow light. "Who thinks they've got something better to do than stay home and enjoy this?" We shuffled home without speaking, listening to our own steps, our rooster telling the hens to go to sleep and maybe the ground would magically reappear by morning. From Husband's pocket sounded the occasional muffled ping of his smartphone, announcing another Facebook friend's good day in the snow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Pack

Remember when you were a kid, and there was always that one house on the block where everyone met to play? For my neighborhood gang, it was the only house with a nice lawn, a green shag rug devoid of the pebble cairns, exposed roots and fire ant mounds of our own ignored yards. An elderly couple lived there; I have a vague recollection of a grandchild or niece who visited once during one summer, thereby providing all-time-forever-for keeps access to the verdant patch.

Our house is that house now. For dogs.

Murphy, the old black lab with the tennis ball fetish, lumbered over with a slobbery orb for us to lob as a method of greeting when we first moved here. Sylvia, our standoffish mutt, took his tennis ball and quickly determined he warranted very little attention due to his dawdling gait. He was too slow to be any fun for her; Murphy's like the chubby kid who brings the equipment to the game but still gets picked last for teams.

A year or so later, Murphy's family decided he needed a companion more fitting to their young daughters' size (and perhaps less covered in viscous goo). Murphy brought Bo over like a penance rather than an introduction—his lumbering posture apologizing, "Sorry, guys. This new kid's kind of a jerk. Can I still play?" Bo, indeed, is kind of a jerk. He runs like a rabbit and slams his fluffy little body into your ankles like a fur-covered slinky. Sylvia turns her ears back and refuses to look at him, doing the dog equivalent of rolling her eyes. His over-eager presence diminishes her entire species.

Recently, shoes started vanishing from our garage. We'd find stray pairs dotting the front yard, as if the wearers had evaporated mid-stroll. The shoes we recovered, for the most part, were not our missing footwear. Soon, cans and bottles we'd added to the recycling joined the front yard arrangements, along with someone's serving bowl and a nice box of new sidewalk chalk. Someone was taking our old stuff and replacing it with new stuff.

Finally, we caught Pete. Pete, a white pit mix with a dapper eye patch, spent a few days sitting on the periphery of the yard and avoiding eye contact, showing all the submissiveness of the new kid on the block. The boys broke the ice with him first, and soon he was rolling around in the fall grass with the rest of the pack. Sylvia finds him too large for her tastes, but she likes being able to outrun him. Pete won over Husband after day three or four of a missing boot; Husband kept instructing "Pete, bring me back my boot." On the way out to the mailbox one morning, he found the boot sitting on the front mat like an overnight package, and Pete sitting on the edge of the driveway watching. "Good dog, Pete." He had been exchanging items between three or four houses on the street, the Robin Hood of pit bulls.

I believed our house would be the neighborhood house for the boys. I daydreamed friends of the boys showing up with a whiffle ball and bat; I imagined settling petty arguments over the rules and procedures of Kick the Can and keeping a mega-pack of popsicles in the freezer for hot summer evenings. We live too far out for that to be the case, but I kind of don't mind the dogs. It makes me smile to look out and see Pete sitting on our lawn, at the edge of the driveway, with Bo flopped next to him in the sunspot. There's something affirming about being the preferred spot for a bunch of playmates, even if they do tend to poop on the grass.

As long as you don't start making them all popsicles, Sylvia groans.