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Sidewalk ice and the winter graph

Tracy BucknerWith all of the talk about the polar vortex, I can’t help thinking that winter, snow and the sidewalk are upon us — and what all that means for the next few months.

Sidewalk ice has different meanings depending on your age. It’s like looking at a graph with a downward slope: fun is the top point and death is the bottom point.

If you’re a child, winter, snow and sidewalk ice can only mean one thing: Fun with a capital F. You’re at the high point on the winter graph. Your mom bundles you up and out you go into a winter wonderland filled with sledding, sliding, falling, snowballs, snow angels and snow forts. Your nose is running and your fingers are wet and freezing, but you don’t notice. Children are blissfully unaware of impending doom and a visit to the ER when they look outside. Sidewalk ice? If you slip, you slip.

On to the teen years, where style comes before warmth at all times. At this age, looking good is more important than being warm. Take a trip to a local high school where in 2- degree weather, the girls are dressed in uggs with mini-skirts and you will know what I mean. My mother would be lucky if she could get me to wear a winter coat. I wore a hat until she was out of sight. So similar to today’s teens, I was usually freezing, but damn, did I look good. Sidewalk ice? I didn’t give it a moment’s thought.

During life’s next stage, you’re working outside the home, or home with the kids. (“Home with the kids” is also “working” but you don’t get to leave the house for adult conversation, no coffee or lunch break, you don’t get paid for putting your life on hold, and, best of all, you get no respect whatsoever. I’m sounding bitter, aren’t I? But that’s a future blog, so stay tuned).

During this stage, your children, upon hearing that phone ring early in the morning, are ecstatic, knowing it can only mean one thing: A SNOW DAY! If you’re a stay-at-home or a working mom, however, you hear that early morning ring and you think….”shoot me.” It might mean fun with a capital F to your kids, but you are probably thinking of another word, also with a capital F. The point on the winter graph is beginning to drop significantly.

But, I remember once after the plow had come, my kids went outside and saw the tremendously high drift that the plow had left at the bottom of our drive. Within 10 minutes they had made it into a fort with snow windows and little seats. Then they made a small slide. A few neighborhood kids came over and it was all fun and laughter and snowsuits, and hats and gloves and boots. As I watched from my window,  I thought to myself, “Go outside. Forget the ice.”

So I did.

None of them seemed to notice that I was dressed like an Eskimo, so I started collecting rocks and sticks and began decorating their fort. Before long all of them were collecting whatever greenery they could find and decorating along with me. My nose was running and my hands were wet and freezing, but I was having a great time. It was like being Snow White with her seven dwarfs. If I fell, there would be seven kids to pick me up.

I didn’t fall.

Afterwards, I went inside and made hot chocolate for everyone and even had marshmallows handy in the pantry. Then I invited some of my friends over who were similarly thrilled with the snow day and darned if Jack Daniels didn’t go great with the hot chocolate! Why should only kids have all the fun?

Now I’m at the bottom of the winter graph where its uggs without the mini-skirt for me. Looking good? Forget it. It takes 10 minutes to get ready to leave the house as you put on a winter coat, tie a scarf around your neck, pull the same scarf over your nose and mouth, put on gloves and a hat. I imagine it’s like wearing a burka as only your eyes are exposed.

My daughter says, “Mom, you’re only walking 20 feet to get the mail,” but I don’t care. And I can’t think of letting her get the mail because she would only wear a mini skirt with uggs. My only concern is staying out of the ER and keeping the circulation going in my fingers and toes.

At my age, I’m at the lowest point on the winter graph. I look at sidewalk ice and think, “I’m going to die.”

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills, which serves Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can see read other pieces and sign up to follow her on her blog.

Reflections of Erma