The obligatory house-in-the-snow picture. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset.

When it comes to dealing with a winter storm, we all seem to follow the same script.

It’s entertaining to see how similar we are in extraordinary–if not unexpected or familiar–circumstances.

I’m talking, of course, about what we do when it snows in the South. We thin-blooded folk follow predictable routines, flooding the grocery stores in the preceding hours of precipitation to obsessively purchase bread and milk. Further, based on my own trip to the market, we also keenly stocked the ingredients for chili–though not as barren as the bread aisle, the holding places for kidney beans, ground beef, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese were noticeably sparse.

Many people my age joke about needing to stock up on wine. My mother, who works at a nursing home, packs an overnight bag in anticipation of working multiple shifts and not being able to make it back to the house. 

The pure survivalists fill their cars with gas and go to Lowe’s and Home Depot in search of bags of salt and snow shovels; winter enthusiasts join them there picking up the last of the plastic sleds.

It is all a collective pulse of shopping-fueled energy, a “get out while you still can” frenzy that emanates from somewhere deep within. For as the snow began to fall late Friday afternoon, we all know it to be the early music, the beginning strains that silence the evening, beckoning us to our seats and quieting our separate excitements, preparing our hearts for accumulation.

Even now, I find it hard to sleep when there’s going to be an overnight snow.

After we put Julia and Thomas and Annie to bed, I found myself wandering about our dark house, staring through the windows at the quiet snowfall, my pulse awake with wonder.

Saturday morning, the kids burst out of their room crying, “It snowed! It snowed! Mommy, Daddy, look outside!

It was ten after seven in the morning.

The hours that followed were exercises in patience as we parents filled in every process imaginable to delay the endeavors into the chilly cold: a long breakfast (we eat well on snow days), an extra cup of coffee, an episode of a TV show, time for playing. We pushed as long as we could, but by 10:00 we’d run out of excuses.

On with the snow bibs, the second and third layers of shirts and socks, the gathering of mittens and gloves, of scarves and toboggans. It is still snowing when we wander out with sleds in tow, the kids collapsing into the powder in ecstasy, their joyful exercises turning the once perfectly smooth landscape into a series of choppy waves.

Annie was asleep, so we subbed in the dog.

This being the era of social media, we pause for pictures, bringing the dog into a few, before putting away our cell phones for a while. I am quietly thankful that to operate my phone requires removing my gloves, something the single-digit windchill limits to short exposures.

Back inside, we heat up our chili and ready lunches and post those carefully curated pictures and like and heart and thumbs-up our friends’. We fall back into our habits: pictures of our houses in the undisturbed snow; of our children in their winter gear; of sledding. The common scenes of our lives are re-examined and remarked upon with their fresh layers of powder.

This morning, with church cancelled and nowhere else to go, we lingered about the breakfast table, thinking of different ways to occupy the kids at least until lunch. (It was 12 degrees this morning, and the high won’t reach freezing.) I brought a cup of coffee down to my office while Thomas played with his marble run toy, searching my old blog for all the times I wrote about the snow.

I found stories about watching Julia see snow for the first time, about our breakfasts, about traveling in New England and DC and elsewhere in the frozen stuff. I found poems and pictures.

All of it was a vivid reminder that this is just another lap around the sun–different, but somehow the same–and the deep gift is always perspective, the chance to pause and see what’s new this time.

Julia and Thomas played in the back yard in the snow, something they’ve never been able to do. While Annie can’t quite play in the snow yet, she certainly realized something was different when we picked her up and walked to the window. Taylor joined us. Zoe didn’t–bless her heart, she’s got a hip problem, and I fear she won’t make it through the winter.

And I am staring down my last week working at Davidson, just five more trips down and up the interstate before starting a new job at Mitchell Community College. I am awash in beginnings and endings.

So, too, we pace ourselves through the refrains and repeated sections of a winter storm: the preparation, the event, the momentary isolation. Venturing out, tentatively at first, leaving and returning, anxious of slick streets. We ask ourselves a dozen times what the odds of school being cancelled will become–surely, we say, the roads won’t be clear enough.

We watch as the sun comes out and little avalanches of snow fall from the treetops, high above, exploding into powdery showers, joining the leisurely melt that we all hope will stretch into days.