We did get our snow day. But it was the wrong kind of snow day — not the kind where you get a text at 7am to say that the school is closed, but the kind where you set out (in my case wearing my daughter’s old combat boots from her Air Cadet days) only to find yourself slithering and sliding over the pavements, which are downhill all the way, and struggling to keep your feet under you on the roads, doing some sort of mad, involuntary, shuffling dance as you glide merrily into the path of oncoming traffic. We got halfway to school then gave up. School said not to worry when I rang them: we weren’t the only ones who’d decided it wasn’t safe to come in.
Later, Freddie told his sister that he’d been ‘skating in my Kickers’.
I made hot chocolate when we got home, and fixed him with a stern-ish look and told him we weren’t having the telly on. I gave him a pile of books instead — two on the solar system and the universe, as his class are learning about space for their topic this term, his new one on the human body, and a lift-the-flap book on fractions, decimals and percentages, which, surprisingly, was the one he picked up first. I sat at my desk and started work on a blog post. After a few minutes Freddie asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was writing. He said ‘I’m writing too’, which I took to mean he wanted to do some writing, so I fetched his easel, a roll of paper and the felt pens. After a few more minutes he called to say that he’d drawn a comet and an asteroid. He had indeed been busy drawing — and in an attempt to pull up a clean piece of paper had unravelled the entire roll all over the sitting room. He looked at me with that look, the one that’s half puppyish glee and half a knowing acknowledgement that I can’t tell him off when he’s got his happy puppy face on.
If I couldn’t get Freddie safely to school then there was no way we could get to the shop to restock our depleted storecupboards (I don’t drive), so making tea involved the use of stepladders — so I could see what might be lurking in the back of the cupboards that could use to cobble together a meal. Come to think of it, I have to stand on a step-ladder when making pastry if I don’t want backache, and whenever I cook anything in the top oven since I prefer not to burn my arms, so perhaps it’s not such an unusual thing for me to do after all.
In the end I concocted something consisting of Orzo pasta mixed with about a dozen frozen edamame beans, coated in a part-used jar of vegan red pesto, mixed with a dingy half avocado that had been pushed to the back of the fridge, some shredded spinach that was hurtling towards the end of it’s shelf life, a couple of depressed-looking carrots that I rescued from the bottom of the veg box and shredded, and a pepper. I sprinkled it all with the last little nubbin of the lactose-free feta cheese and told them it was a Buddha bowl (a Buddha-hasn’t-been-shopping Bowl). And the family ate it all up. They even told me it was lovely, that they’d eat it again.
It occurred to me, as I ate my dinner, that a lot of people would turn their noses up at a meal like that. Just as a lot of people would turn their noses up at the whole of my life: people who would state, explicitly and emphatically, that they do not want to live ‘that life’, and would take drastic steps to avoid it.
THAT LIFE. My life.
I wondered ‘What are you eating for your tea, you who would choose quiet grief and mourning over a life like mine. Having freed yourselves from the encumbrances and restrictions that you say such a life as mine would place on you, do you now live in such favourable, such successful, circumstances that you can dine out every night, or employ a housekeeper so that you never have to concern yourselves with mundane things like shopping and cooking, or are you, perhaps, able to employ a private chef?
No, of course not. Unless you had those things already.
Because, I think you’ll find, ‘that life’ — the one you don’t want to live — is often almost indistinguishable from the one you live now.