Do you remember that winter when it snowed all the time? You had so many snow days you could hardly tell them apart. Every weekend was a long weekend.
You cheered when the call from the school district before bed, or you heard your mom’s phone chime with the message in the early morning. Then you rolled over because you knew you could sleep late and wear your pajamas all day. You put your snow pants over top and no one even knew! You went sledding down the hill in the park, even when it was freezing, even when it was slush. You only ran over another kid once.
Remember how big the piles of snow were in the parking lot next to your house? When you actually had school, your mom brought your boots to change into so you could walk home without slipping on the unshoveled walks. You tromped along on top of the snow piles and managed to get snow inside your boots every time.
It was like having a vacation every week, right at home. Sometimes the neighbor kids came over all day, and sometimes your best friend’s dad brought her over in his truck. Sometimes it was just you, your sister, your mom, and your dad.
Your mom and dad grumbled sometimes about the missed school and the snow tracked on the floor, but when they raced down the hills with you, they laughed too. You made snow forts while they shoveled. Once the car was free, your parents took you out on the snowy roads for emergency provisions of pumpkins muffins for you and coffee for them. Then home again, waiting to see if the next day would bring school or another snow day.
Remember that winter? That’s how winter is supposed to be.
I said goodbye to another friend today.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timeless reflection on presence over productivity — a timely antidote to the central anxiety of our productivity-obsessed age. Indeed, my own New Year’s resolution has been to stop measuring my days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence.
From Maria Popova on Brain Pickings, writing about the life of Allan Watts, born this day in 1915. I haven’t read any of these authors but I think it’s time I did.
I visited Welsh Valley Middle School for the first time in the spring, when my friend Todd Marrone invited me to speak to his students about writing. I never dreamed that the next time I visited, it would be for his memorial service.
On that first visit, it was raining, and I was lost. I had only ever found Welsh Valley by mistake before and it was hard to find it on purpose. But once I found my way inside the sprawling compound, Todd was welcoming, as always. I brought prepared remarks, since it was my school visit as an author. I didn’t need them. Todd was a consummate host — an educator with such strong rapport with his students that he was able to draw me into that circle.
I met Todd when my first daughter was only a week or two old, so he has only known me as I am now, but I saw him through many changes in the past 8 1/2 years. He married his love Heather. He became a father — his first son Rocco the same age as my second daughter, his daughter Matilda born two years later. And while he was growing as a husband and father, he grew as a teacher, an artist, entertainer, and person.
For 38 years, he was among the happiest of men, and certainly one who gave the most happiness to others. That’s how I will remember him.