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We got let out of school early that Friday in January. It had started snowing in the morning, and was steadily building. It almost covered my feet by the time my classmates and I were dismissed from fourth period.
“Wow! Amamba boo you thee thith?” my friend Kate asked as she stuck out her tongue to catch the flakes. Kate loves snow. Too bad she lived here in Small-town, Georgia, where it rarely does more than dust the hills. She moved here from Alaska, so she’s like a polar bear that’s been shoved onto a desert island; she’s only truly happy when it’s below 40.
How could I not see the snow? White, delicate, and absolutely freezing! After Kate and I sped through our goodbyes – promising to be online ASAP– I hurried onto my bus, already shivering.
Brian, my older brother, was already plugged into his painful music, blowing into his hands but still humming a low song, or something resembling music. He never talked, only hummed nonsense tunes to himself. Picture a perfect emo-slash-stud with jet black hair, and you have my brother. He used to be my role model when he was a straight A student, soccer goalie, lead in the school musical, but then he suddenly got all sulky and let his hair grow out over his eyes as if to block out the world.
It was still snowing when the bus dropped us off. The ground was wet and gushy and freezing cold, yet somehow still beautiful. I could almost see why Kate loved it so much. It covered the ugly beat-up car that was parked outside our neighbor’s house. It covered the bare trees and the roofs of the houses. It made me feel like I’d been transported to Narnia. I couldn’t help but smile through my chattering teeth as Brian and I walked up our street. Brian, still tuned out, seemed oblivious to the beauty around us.
Mom was waiting with a towel at the front door, shuffling around us and brushing off snow. She was on the phone at the same time, talking to one of her thousand friends.
“Shoes off!” she commanded without as much as a ‘hello’, before hustling us into the kitchen. Brian grabbed an orange, then beat it to his room, while I poured a cup of water, then sat at the table. Mom sat down across from me, then we both looked out the window; each trying to avoid the other’s eyes.
“It’s really snowing isn’t it?” She asked. I nodded. Then her phone rang again, and she left to answer it as usual. I decided it was time to go to my room as well.
Online, it seemed like everyone was posting about snow. I looked out my window, and it seemed – if possible—to be snowing even more heavily than before. However, I was completely set for the weekend, already forgetting the homework that I had.
“Dad’s going to be coming home early; the snow’s really piling up,” Mom called from downstairs. Neither Brian nor I replied. I knew Brian and I were thinking the same thing; that means a formal, healthy, silent dinner at the dining room table.
I was still online talking to Kate by the time Dad got home. For a split-second I debated running down to greet him, like I used to when I was little, before snorting to myself.
I woke up before the sun the next morning expecting to see that I’d dreamed the snow, but when I looked out the window it was still falling thick and heavy. My computer bleeped at me, explaining what had woken me. Low battery. I got out of my warm bed, and plugged it in and turned it on. Then I logged onto my computer.
You know that moment in movies when the scream starts in the characters throat, then the screen zooms out, until it covers the town, then the country, then Earth, then a bunch of stars? Then the camera shows a shot of the character staring at something with a shocked expression? That was me, when I saw that I had no internet. Literally (not really but close enough).
“This is so exciting!” Mom said when they came running into my room, “It’s like going back to the Middle Ages!”
I wanted so badly to snap at her; the Middle Ages had no electricity or running water, yet I bet they still had it better than me. At least they weren’t stuck in this family of nutcases.
I went for the not-so-innocent daughter blow; “Mom, did you realize that if it keeps snowing tomorrow you won’t be able to make your book club?”
That got her upset; Mom lived for her book club. She was always trying to get me to read the pro-woman, depressing books that she read (I’m proud to say I haven’t opened one of them).
I don’t know why I blamed my parents for the internet cut-off; I was just in a bad mood. I’d already lost the only thing I was looking forward to all weekend.
I was just about fed up with life (otherwise known as staring at my ceiling) when Dad called me downstairs. He and Mom had a pile of snow clothes on the floor in the hallway.
“Try these on,” they ordered. They pushed a pair of five year-old-sized snow pants in my face. Then a pink flowery snow jacket with plenty of pocket space, but not enough arm space, extra roomy gloves, and a pair of ski boots. None of these things fit well, and I didn’t even know where the ski boots came from!
“The snow is really deep; we need you and Brian to go shovel it,” Dad explained.
Great I groaned to myself. “Where’s Brian?” I asked, just as he waltzed around the corner wearing perfectly fitting snow gear. Perfect.
“This is child abuse…” I grumbled below my breath, but my parents didn’t hear.
By noon, I felt like all I’d been doing my entire life was shovel. I shoveled the front steps, and I shoveled the driveway. I even shoveled the road. Brian was the only reason I didn’t give up. He just kept shoveling, showing no sign of exhaustion, or annoyance. I was going to outdo him on this!
We never take family trips like this anymore, but for some reason this shoveling reminded me of the time we drove to the seaside so many summers ago. I wanted the hole that I was digging to China to be bigger than his. The five-year-old-me knew I could outdo him then, but the rather more mature me knew now that I probably couldn’t.
After another half-hour on shoulder-aching, back-paining work, I walked over to Brian.
“Are you ever going to stop?”
He just nodded at me.
“Well, I’m done. Bye. Want hot chocolate?”
He nodded again, so I started to walk inside. As I was shutting the door on the recently shoveled world; I saw Brian stick out his tongue and catch a snowflake on it.
I don’t know why but the image of my moody, depressed brother catching that snowflake stuck with me all day. I thought of him instead of zoning out online like I would usually do. I had trapped myself back in my room, lying flat on my back to rest. I was playing solitaire for the hundredth time on my internet-less computer. I really don’t understand how people can live like this, at home all day with their family. I had no distractions except for my sore muscles, and stupid computer games.
After the call for dinner, Brian and I met on the steps. One look at him, and I could tell he was as fed up as I was. We needed to do something, because another day of being stuck at home with the parents was going to kill us both. I decided to bring it up.
Mom was chatting away with dad about so-and-so is writing a book about such and such topic, nothing interesting, when I brought it up.
“Why don’t we ever do anything?”
No one answered, although my question had gotten my parent’s attention. Brian kept shoveling rice into his mouth.
“Like, as a family. I mean, even Kate’s parents who are divorced are able to do stuff as a family.”
“We do stuff!” my mom said.
“Like what? Talk about your book club or your obsession with cooking? Brian and I don’t care about that. When’s the last time you guys even asked me how I’ve been doing at school?”
I could see dad’s knuckles whitening, “How’ve you been doing in school?” He asked slowly.
“That’s not the point!” I spluttered. I looked at Brian for support, but he looked almost embarrassed
“Then what is the point you’re trying to make here?” Dad’s voice was louder now.
“My point is that you have kids, and maybe you should make the effort to know them. Remember how we all used to go to the seaside together? When’s the last time we’ve done anything as a family?”
“Well, you know we’ve been really…” Mom started with her excuses but then the most amazing thing happened.
“Mom,” Brian interrupted, “no more excuses. Amanda’s right, we never talk to each other as a family, and whenever we try to talk to you, you’re on the phone, or won’t listen.”
“Now,” Dad interrupted, trying to calm Brian down.
“I’m not done!” Brian banged his fist on the table, “Dad you’re never home, and whenever you are we aren’t happy about it! Don’t you think we should try to act like a family again?” Brian pushed out his chair and walked out of the room, while we all stared after him with our mouths hanging open. I think Mom might have actually dropped some food out of her mouth. That was as many words as Brian has said in the last year put together.
Mom was about to burst into hysterical tears, but she rushed out of the room. Just Dad and I were left, but then he swept out of the room after Mom.
I banished myself to my room for the night, and spent a while watching the snow. It was slowing noticeably. I read a little from an old book, surprisingly enjoying it, and then fell asleep.
I was really getting into the book the next morning when someone knocked on my door, and Mom pulled her body around the door.
“Hey,” I nodded as Dad followed her around.
“Honey, we are really sorry about all this.” I took the Brian approach and stayed silent, “I know we haven’t been acting like a great family lately. We’ll try to work on in. we’re not a perfect family anyways, but we could all try a bit harder, even you. I’m just being honest here.” I actually admired her for that.
“I know, but what should we do about it?” I asked.
“We’re going sledding today,” Dad said, “the snow stopped, and it looks deep but it’s walk-able.”
“And Brian?” Just then Brian walked in smiling. (So that’s what he looked like when he smiled!). It was getting crowded in my room,
“It was my idea,” he told me.
So we all went sledding. It was cheesy, and the snow wasn’t great because it was too deep. It was absolutely freezing cold and snow got all in my clothes and I might have to stay home on Monday with the flu, but it was worth it. Mom and Dad laughed together for the first time in ages. Brian and I laughed at them and at ourselves when we went toppling off of our sleds. That’s the exact moment I want to remember my family by from now on. We weren’t always comfortable, and we certainly weren’t perfect, but we were together, and we were happy. Just like a snowy day.