Snowy Sunday – February 7th, 2021
After days of threats, the snow finally fell. But it didn’t fall; it blew in. And it’s blowing still. Like a mega-sized leaf blower, powered by the forces that be, the snow blows steadily sideways, down, around, onto cars, off flat roofs, building up to a foot high in our little backyard.
Theo dares to go out, first. He is gone quite a while, and I ask Naomi, “Should we send out a search party, what d’you think?” She smiles and nods, and just then we see him coming up the snow-covered pavement, or maybe he’s in the street; it’s impossible to tell the difference.
“Can I borrow your boots?” asks Naomi, next. And she tells her boyfriend how grateful she was that I forced her to take these with her on her long weekend to New York, a couple of years ago, when it was -20 degrees Celsius and full of snow. “They saved me, these boots,” she says, slipping them on over her thick socks. “Thanks, Mom,” she calls back into the house, as she steps carefully over the slippery step, into the winter wonderland.
I stay indoors for the time-being. Preparing my lessons for the upcoming week, watching Naomi being pulled on a sled by her boyfriend, watching Theo shovel a path to our house, even though as soon as he’s done, the path is covered again with what looks like frosted sugar.
When Naomi returns, Theo offers to go out with me, but we defer until after lunch. Then a phone call to Margot, in Israel, where she is eating a salad and sitting outside for her lunch, wearing a thick sweater, but no scarf or gloves.
Eventually it’s time for me to brave the cold. I wear my rain pants over my thick, lined jeans, three layers including a sweatshirt under my new winter coat, a balaclava that doubles as a mask, a Siberian hat with ear coverings that closes under my neck, a neck warmer, gloves, and of course, my snow-boots.
“Where did we get those?” asks Theo.
“We didn’t, I did.” I answer. “At the ANWB store.” I still remember that day. It wasn’t snowing but it was freezing and windy. My regular winter boots were no match against the cold, and my toes started aching. I went into the store, tried on the boots and bought them right away. “Sometimes I buy things on my own. I have a life, you know.” I look at Theo, having to turn my whole head towards him, as the fur lining around my coat’s hood acts like blinders. I can only see forward. I smile at him, under the balaclava, and I think he knows I’m joking, a little.
This past year we’ve been locked up together, barely seeing any friends or family. Shopping is a thing of the past, let alone shopping on my own. We are now Siamese twins, for better or worse. If he goes that way, I have to follow, and he follows me too, wherever I may lead.
Neither of us wants to lead the other, but being the daughter of my father, I tend to be the bossy one, some of the time, and he tends to follow, up to a point, and then resist. We’ve always been pretty good at discussing our differences, and not letting them build up like the piles of snow against the shed outside. But we both become miserable on in those days when one gets angry at the other. Invariably it’s me, as somehow, he tends to be much more forgiving. I’m impatient, I’m controlling at times, I worry, I want things to be done right. It’s the perfectionist in me that criticizes not only how I do things, but also how others are doing it. My way or the highway.
Growing up in Israel, you learn to push, to shove, to make sure your voice is heard. Because it’s not really “live and let live” over there. It’s live like I tell you, or go find somewhere else to live. It’s not by chance that I ended up leaving, I guess. I had learned how to be assertive, to make things happen my way, but with time, I’m slowly unlearning it.
My Dutch husband always tells the story of getting on a bus in Israel and counting out the money for his ride, while three other people reached over or around him, to give the driver their money. He was astounded at their audacity. In the Netherlands, you wait your turn. No matter how long it takes.
Where am I going with this story? Into the snow.
So, I trudged next to, after and sometimes in front of Theo, walking into the “polder” – the flat pastures divided by thin strips of canals, half wild land, half grass. The geese, the swans, and some ducks were hanging out in one of the canals, surprised by the harsh weather. ‘We thought it’d be another mild winter,’ I’m sure I heard one honking, and the other, its mate, no doubt, answering, ‘Well, I don’t wanna say it, but I told you so.’
Just then, we spot a flock of geese flying overhead, riding the heavy winds pushing them westwards, towards England, where they, without passports or visas, could look for milder weather, perhaps.
A man rides by on his scooter, both feet just above the ground. I stop to wonder at his bravery/stupidity. But I guess he too was surprised by the weather. He drives very slowly, and I’m glad, as I don’t want to see him slip and fall.
We take the short route, back through the thicket of hazelnut trees, past a group of magpies that fly low just over the snowy path in front of us. I feel sorry for them. Come to our backyard, we’ve got snacks, I want to tell them.
We stop at the warm supermarket, pull off a few layers, but keep our masks on, sanitize our hands, and pick up a few things for dinner. Walking back, around the corner of a building, we are almost blown backwards by the wind. The snow is going right into my eyes but melts right away. It’s doable.
“Let’s walk on the road,” I suggest to Theo.
“Usually you’re not a fan of walking on the road,” he retorts. I hate it when he makes generalizations like this. Although in this case, he is right. Normally, I would prefer to walk on the sidewalk. One’s much less likely to get hit by a car or a bike that way. But today, the sidewalks are icy and hazardous, whereas the road has barely been used. When the Dutch govt. says the road conditions are ‘Code Red,’ then most people (except that guy on the motorbike), stay at home. And it’s Sunday, so why not?
We stay walking on the road, and finally, almost at home, after an hour outside in 5 degrees below zero, Theo asks me if I’d like him to pull me on the sled after we put the shopping inside.
“No thanks, I’ve had enough.”
“How do you say that in Hebrew?” Theo asks.
“Le’gamrei maspeek,” I answer.
“Gam is ‘also’ isn’t it?” he asks.
“It is, but this is ‘Le Gamrei’ – maybe it has the same root, I don’t know.”
We walk over the football/grass field opposite our house, and when we get to the house, I knock on the window and wave to Naomi and Dani. I point at the snow angel I made in the snow before we left. Naomi gives me a smile and a thumbs up.
It’s been a day.