I live in an area of the country that is battered by snow and cold for months on end every year. We, the beleaguered, heavy-laden parents of the midwest must face not just repeated snow days in which school is canceled, but also cold days, a new and dreaded designation. The enemy of my people. In my district, when the wind chill dips below -30, the superintendent calls off school. Wuss.
As the rest of my area engages in traditional disaster preparedness, I find myself preparing for an altogether different sort of disaster. While the community fights over the last gallons of milk at the store, while my husband shovels every hour, while my neighbors check the batteries in their flashlights, I turn to more inward preparation. I grit my teeth; I dig deep. In truth, there is no remedy but to brace myself for the impending doom.
As soon as my phone dings with the School Canceled text at 5 AM, I know a different sort of disaster is about to be visited upon me. The disaster of the cooped up creative child. This is a storm whose damage knows few bounds. Like a hurricane, the damage wreaked by imaginative children is widespread, intricate, and ever surprising in its variety. It leaves only tattered scraps and barely recognizable terrain in its wake.
The first few flakes of a winter storm fall gently. Before the storm unleashes its full fury, it can even seem pretty. Recovery still seems possible. So it is with the first breezes of imagination. The disorder seems manageable. My living and dining rooms begin to take on new appearances:
Why is there an umbrella on my couch? What are all those books doing? What half-baked paper project is underway on my dining table? Where did the dining chairs go?
The screams and clatter of competitive creating begin to pierce the air. Every stuffed animal, every Barbie must have her own bed. Every bed must be constructed of non-traditional materials. In an instant, we pass the point of no return. The order and peace of my home is swept away in the torrent. From the gales of imagination there is no shelter. Like a survivor emerging from a bomb shelter, I arise from the basement laundry room to find my home in upheaval, every possession overturned and repurposed, each child clinging to her “supplies” with the ferocity of a threatened lioness.
Superheroes may show up to my purported aid, yet I can little trust either their intentions or their skills. Their only proven powers are the ability to rip through entires rolls of tape in 60 seconds flat.
If I seek refuge in the favorite haven of mothers nationwide–the bathroom–I find it overtaken with “laser beams” and overly enthusiastic, pajama-clad children. Mom, isn’t this awesome?!
If I imagine I can find a refuge of calm upstairs, I will find the creative swarms have already been there. I am too late. There is no way out. Mom, see if you can get upstairs without getting hit by the lasers!! Just try it!
Painters tape before me, painters tape behind me, painters tape beneath me, painters tape beside me. There is no way to prepare for this disaster. It must simply be endured. Perhaps in Spring I will be able to dig out, I whimper from my fetal position, rocking slightly. With the cat I collapse in hopelessness, able only to shield my eyes from the damage.
© Laura Goetsch and Thinking About Such Things, 2015.