Monday, January 05, 2009

snow day

In the week running up to Christmas break Oregon got hit with some pretty wintry weather. The west side of the side pretty much found itself paralyzed by snowy roads. Roads were closed and school was canceled just about everywhere in the Portland area. Even Pendleton and Hermiston closed schools one day that week. But out here on the east side of the Blues, we just rolled our eyes and kept slogging off to wherever we were supposed to go. The weather over the break was dramatic to say the least, and we spent at least one day and night snowed in out at Cricket Flats where there were white-out conditions and the county snowplow did not run for a couple of days.

Last night though it seemed like things had returned to normal and we had every expectation of getting up and going to school Monday. We had closed out the holiday break by showing the kids the second Star Wars film, Empire Strikes Back. Exactly one year ago they watched the first one. That first film had been the kids first encounter with a cinematic character embodying pure evil. Darth Vader and his Death Star kept our kids huddling and cowering on the couch as Beth guided them through the experience. A year later, they were excited about the next installment. Once again, Beth prepped them for the story. Tess and Colm each brought their own oversized teddy bears to hold on to and to shield their eyes at the right moments. We didn't so much watch the film as we announced it, blow by blow, keeping a half step ahead of the action, responding to prompts like, "Is he going to die?" "Is he bad?" "Is this where he gets frozen in carbon?"

I'm not sure how much peeking they did from behind their bears but by the end of the film Beth and I had earned our stripes as film commentators. One of my favorite lines came from Tess who remarking on Luke's surgically implanted new hand said, "Where do they get those hands? From bad guys?" Did my daughter envision harvesting limbs and body parts from people who had forfeited their right to keep such parts? The moral universe of a seven year old (the age of reason according to traditional Catholic teaching) prone to despotic tendencies. It is a framework not yet congenial to the subtle promptings of Yoda. One day she may be a Jedi but not yet.

I woke up and discovered that I had some shoveling to do. The snow was still coming down pretty good but I figured that I might as well clear out what I could while I could before going to work. I'd barely begun when Beth stuck her head out the door and told me that the school district had announced a two hour delay for the start of the day. I nodded and kept at it knowing now that I'd have time to finish the job and have a leisurely breakfast and manage to get Tess going in the right direction with time to spare. A two hour delay was a new one. I couldn't remember us ever doing that. Oh well, I thought. There was at least six inches of fresh snow on the sidewalk and driveway, solid not powdery but not heavy either, not yet. Snow was still falling steadily and I imagined that if the winds were blowing out in the valley, some of the roads were likely pretty miserable. I was working my way around the car when Beth called out again. School was canceled, a blizzard was forecast throughout the day. I could see Colm through the living room window. He was dancing on the couch in his underwear. He looked like Gollum with his Precious. I was pretty sure Tess was still asleep. I looked behind and could see that the walk I shoveled first was already carpeted by a gauze of snow. Snow day.

When the Star Wars films were first released, we had to wait for about a year to see each new installment of the trilogy. Today of course, one can experience them consecutively or even chronologically without having to defer the experience. I go inside and suggest to Beth that today could be about sledding and a movie, maybe even the Return of the Jedi. Beth smiles at the idea of being so indulgent, but then she wonders aloud. What if we waited another year, she says. I'm reminded of Yoda's complaint that Luke cannot learn because he lacks patience. I know that each of us is tempted by the romance of waiting. I wonder if we will.
After all, Luke didn't.


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