21: Snow Day

21: Snow Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Snow Day

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.

~Oprah Winfrey

The playground teemed with kids doing spins, flips, and daring feats of all kinds, including my own upside-down antics on the monkey bars. But then a familiar voice interrupted my act.

“Barbara, time for supper,” called my mother from the edge of the play area.

“Okay,” I replied, as I flung my knees over my head and prepared for an impressive dismount.

As Mom returned to our campsite and my tennies hit the soft sand, a new freckle-faced friend ventured to guess, “Is that your grandma?”

The carefree mood of the afternoon suddenly turned heavy. No matter how often I heard that question, I couldn’t help but wince. Through a quick, quiet mumble, I admitted, “No, she’s my mom,” and ran to our camper.

Mom was thirty-six years old when she had me. When I grew up in the 1970s, thirty-six was on the older side for mothers. I felt different — sometimes even cheated — because of my “unique” circumstance.

There was Jody’s mom, a savvy shopper the same age as my idol Olivia Newton John. There was Karen’s mom, a bouncy city type who sported a colorful collection of jersey-knit miniskirts and other hip fashions. She even roller-skated on the weekends.

Then there was my mom. In comparison, she seemed unexciting, drab, and so out of touch with matters of “importance.” I often chided her about everything that made her unlike my friends’ mothers.

There were Mom’s practical polyester pants: “Can we please buy you some jeans?” There were her weekly trips to Lorna’s Beauty Shop for a set and comb out: “Can we please buy you a curling iron?” And there was her preference for Andy Williams over Andy Gibb: “Can we please listen to something else?”

But one blustery winter morning changed all that. That was when I saw my mom in a whole new light.

As a Minnesota fifth grader, my schoolmates and I lived for snow days. And, on this particular Tuesday, there seemed a direct correlation between the level of our antsiness and the growing mounds of snowflakes collecting on the metal frames of the classroom windows.

As spitballs flew across the room and ponytails were pulled by even the most reserved students, a “knock, knock, knock” sounded from the back of the room. I turned to see our formidable principal and was surprised to see my mom standing next to him in her parka.

“I’ve come for Barbara,” Mom announced to my teacher.

My stomach lurched. Who was sick? Who was dead? There could be no other reason for her visit. As I put away my books and wriggled into my coat and boots, the curious stares of my classmates followed me to the exit.

When the door closed behind us, and all of the other kids were out of earshot, we paused as I donned my hat and mittens. I prepared myself for the bad news.

“The radio says that school will be closing at one o’clock,” she revealed. “But I’d like you to come home with me now. Sound okay?”

“Sure,” I replied, with the best nonchalance I could muster. Getting out of school before everyone else! I was the luckiest kid alive!

We threw open the school doors and trudged through shin-deep drifts to our car. I plopped down into the passenger seat. I thought we would head home, but despite the unplowed streets and swirling snow, my mom turned the car toward town.

“We have a couple of stops to make,” she said.

She spotted a parking space outside the local five and dime. Her mission?

“First, some new puzzle books for our afternoon at home together.”

Once inside, I had my pick of the magazine rack full of crosswords, jumbo word-finds, and Archie comics.

Kitty corner from the dime store was the grocer.

“I think we need some special snacks, too,” said Mom.

Some chips. Some pop. A candybar. All of my favorites made their way into the cart.

Upon arriving home, Mom and I snuggled under quilts. We spent the afternoon watching game shows and cartoons.

It couldn’t have been a better day.

It turned out that I was the only kid in town with a mom who allowed me to “skip” school and who treated me to my favorite things. I was the only kid with a mom this cool.

More than thirty years later, I became a mother myself at a very ripe forty-two years old, a whole six years older than my mom when she had me. Undoubtedly, there will be times when my daughter will be embarrassed by my existence, will wish she had a different mother than me — someone younger, prettier, smarter, richer, and cooler. But I was raised by a great role model. My mother was true to herself, and on snowy days and other days, she was always eager to make me feel special. These are the qualities that made my mom stand out from the rest. I pray I’ll make a similar mark on my own little girl’s heart.

~Barbara Farland

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