It’s snowing today in New York and as always that first snow turns the city into an Impressionist canvas: the hard edges are softened, noises are muffled. It’s lovely. (Eventually, of course, sometime in late January, the romance of “first snow” will be gone and we’ll be left with piles of filthy slush, but we won’t think about that today. Yes, there’s probably a relationship metaphor in here somewhere).
And snow, of course, causes delirium, veritable paroxysms of joy, in the small fry. Caleb doesn’t go to nursery school on Fridays, so I bundled him up in all kinds of weather-appropriate gear (thus creating the particular kind of waddling run that can be achieved only by combining snowpants that are slightly too big with snowboots that don’t quite fit) and went out on the terrace of our building. By virtue of being on the fifteenth floor, the terrace offers a wonderful snow-day opportunity: the snow is relatively clean – and thus edible, as long as I don’t think too hard about the filthy air through which the snow falls – and because no one else goes out there, the kids have the joy of being the first to mark that smooth white surface.
Today’s snowfall was particularly delicious for Caleb because he didn’t have to share the snow with his older brother, who, truth be told, has a penchant for “accidently” pushing his brother face-first into a snow pile.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about city living versus suburban living – in part because of the low-grade stress over where Caleb will go to kindergarten, but also because of all those Things That People Say: more outside space, slower pace, more closets, owning versus renting, mini-vans versus strollers. And while I know that moving “out there” isn’t a magic bullet for anything, and that my friends who live in various NYC ‘burbs don’t think they’re living in PerfectLand, still…I wonder.
A guy named Leo Marx wrote a book in the late 1960s called The Machine in the Garden, which is about the constant tension in US culture between the technology of the cities and the pastoralism of the country as illustrated in the work of a number of early 20th century novelists, particularly Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Marx doesn’t talk about kids, of course – his book is “serious” – but the tension he describes still exists, only now it also gets played out in the ongoing parental debates about the best place to raise children. Marx talks about literary characters being able to drive back and forth from city to country, or doing like Nick Carraway does, in The Great Gatsby – figuring out how to “rusticate” in the country on the weekends while working in the city (without having a big salary).
For those of us without ready access to a country house, however, “rusticating” is a more illusory condition. We need to find our country house (or suburban yard) wherever we can find it – perhaps a terrace on a snowy day (although in the time it has taken me to write this, the snow has changed to freezing rain, about which it is almost impossible to wax poetic – and thus we see the fleeting nature of first
love snow). Judging from the grin on Caleb’s face as he tromped around, however, he doesn’t care where the snow falls – city, suburb, country – as long as he can be out in it.
I guess my lesson for this snowy day is that I should be equally zen, right? Less angst and worry, more “be here now,” as Ram Dass would say. Even if “here and now” is face down inside a snowy police car, high on the 15th floor.
Non-zen postscript, unrelated to snow: I’m now also contributing to the NYC Moms Blog (and shamelessly used this post to link to my first post for that site): Follow this link, or click on the NYC Moms Blog button on this page.