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Small Talk: Let it snow, I’ll stay home

Jean Gillette hopes you will enjoy some of her earlier columns, in a sympathetic salute to all young moms today.

Because I am an older mother, I often perilously pride myself on being a wiser mother. During spring break from school, I slipped beyond smugness. I entered the realm of hubris, that overweening pride that makes the gods smack their lips in anticipation of the humility they will rain down.  

In my case, the revenge did not rain down. It snowed down. I had decided some weeks earlier that come heck or bankruptcy, I was going to take my children up to “experience” snow this year. Not just a lame drive-up-for-the-day experience. No. We were going to get an adorable, quaint cabin with a roaring fire and a kitchen for cocoa, and we were going to spend our days throwing snowballs, building snowmen, making snow angels and maybe doing a little sledding. 

In early January, I made dozens of phone calls lining up a cabin. Then we crammed five children and two adults plus the enormously bulky winter wear required for this trip, into my thankfully long-suffering friend’s station wagon and hit the road. From the minute the car door closed, I should have heeded the clear warnings. By the next day, I had my credit card poised, ready to hire a helicopter, if necessary, just to get home. 

During the three-hour, 100-mile drive, each of the five children took turns, in pure tag-team style throwing a fit or baiting each other into a fit. Mixed in with this were howls from one child that he did not want to go and would we please take him home right now, while another screamed that he itched and couldn’t scratch while strapped in his booster seat. Everyone had to go to the bathroom at regular, but entirely separate, intervals. No amount of fun music, food munchies and, finally, threats of eternal timeouts, had any impact whatsoever. By the time we rolled up in front of a pathetically shabby row of clapboard shacks, vainly dubbed “cabins,” surrounded by sticky mud and stiffly crusted snow, I felt disaster settle firmly on my shoulders. 

Despite our name-brand ski wear, 30-something degrees with a wind off the lake is a kind of cold for which we coast-dwellers are not spiritually prepared. My children hated it, demanding to go into the “cabin” immediately. It was, I believe, 10 degrees colder inside and smelled rather like a public bathroom. A tiny fireplace was located in a windowless room. The kids immediately turned on the television. 

Our big expedition to a “snow play area” the next day found us paying dearly to use three very steep slopes that mothers of under-9-year-olds got to walk up after every run, dragging an immense inner tube and a reluctant child behind her. The infuriating yet saving grace was that, once there, none of our children wanted any part of these steep slopes and were soon wet, cold and cranky from trying to dig snowballs out of rock-hard snow banks. Telling ourselves we were avoiding an incoming snowstorm, we headed down the mountain a day sooner than planned, heaving a collective sigh of relief. 

It was screamingly bad timing on several levels. We were 10 days into our spring break. The kids were bored and already getting on each other’s nerves. What we didn’t need was to confine ourselves to a collection of tinier spaces and freezing, wet snow play. 

Once home, my ears rang with the memory of listening distractedly to my friend in Minnesota laughing about tedious, snow-bound winters with small children. She now has my admiration as never before.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who was eventually able to redeem herself in Mammoth. Contact her at [email protected]