The world stops, but kids go on and on during ice storm


It's pretty heartless of me, I know, to complain about being stuck inside my house with all these kids when CNN is showing people in Los Angeles stuck outside their crumpled houses with all those kids. So, like, I'm sorry. OK? I'm a bad person. OK? But if they don't open the schools soon I am going to start throwing things and I am not going to care what or who I hit. OK? Do you understand?

Sorry. Didn't mean to shout. It is just that, well, first there was the weekend and it was too cold to go out and then the Monday holiday and it was too cold to go out and then the ice storm and, well, I'm having trouble believing these children will ever go back to school.

(Pity my friend Betsy, who has had all four children home sick for what seems to her like forever. "Ice storm?" she says, and her voice is kind of drifty. "Ice storm? How would I know?")

On snow days, all children do is eat, get dressed to go outside for 10 seconds, leave all their wet clothes in the front hall, eat some more, invite over their friends who leave all their wet clothes in the front hall, have something to eat with their friends, get out every toy they own, complain that there is nothing to do, eat some more and then fight with each other and the only way to break up the arguing is to sit everyone down for something to eat.

(Don't ever make fun of all those women who rush to the grocery store when snow is in the forecast until you've had to make grilled cheese for lunch five days in a row.)

My sister lives in Pittsburgh, where they have been hit with their third snowstorm in three weeks. She can't actually remember whether her four children have been back to school since Christmas or not. "At one point, they each had a friend over," said Cynthia. "I had eight kids in this house. Mine were all watching a video while their friends were up in their rooms playing with their Christmas presents. What was the point of that?"

My friend Nan was feeling so confined by all this that she sat in her car for an hour with the motor running, watching the defroster melt the ice off her windshield. I suspect that she was fantasizing that she was actually going someplace.

There are only two things keeping me going through all of this. Wine and videos.

In a crisis like this, women tend to gather in a friend's kitchen (though I needed a Sherpa guide to get there), drink wine, swap children's videos, curse their husbands for not making it home and then sigh with relief that their husbands aren't home and they don't have to do anything meaningful for dinner.

Husbands everywhere were stuck somewhere between work and home this week (except my friend Susan's husband, who took their son skiing in Pennsylvania and got stuck there. She had these visions of the two of them watching in-room movies at $6.95 a pop and running up room service bills. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much what they did. Except her husband said he made the boy do 10 long-division problems while waiting for the basketball game to start on TV. That, I guess, was supposed to take some of the hedonism out of the evening.)

My own personal husband was looking down the barrel of a night in the Hyatt, preceded by dinner, drinks and televised basketball in the hotel bar, courtesy of his employer. Did I marry a relentless bread-winner, or what? Yeah, well, see if the steps are shoveled when he gets home.

Just the hint of snow will send my children to bed with their underwear on backward -- a well-known snow inducer. Me? I become incredibly tense as I work through four or five contingency plans for getting to work. But at some point, it all sinks in with the finality of death. Hey, nobody is going anywhere, just relax.

At that point, when you give up the struggle against Nature and all her fury, the idea of checkers and hot chocolate with your children becomes almost appealing.

Ignore the mess they make and look at the crystal trees and bushes the ice storm has created. Get out the jigsaw puzzles, make brownies, start a fire, read them a story, call a friend (call all your friends).

"Once you just give up, it is actually wonderful," says my friend Susan.

Oh my. Sounds to me like she's been inside with her kids too long.

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