Tuesday, we were looking forward to another snowy night and day. Like most northern regions, it takes a lot more than 6-12″ to get Vermonters flustered, but, to be perfectly honest, it’s not the snow that rattles my nerves, it’s the snow day.
I work from home. Most of the time it’s a good racket – especially when Thing1 and Thing2 get the unexpected day off. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, however, especially when Thing1 and Thing2 get the unexpected day off. They’re good kids, but, try as I might, I have not found the trick to getting them to sit quietly with their hand folded over their laps while mommy deals with customers online (if you’ve found it online somewhere, send me the link). But, as I found out over Christmas break (almost two weeks of expected days off), silence isn’t always golden.
Seven-year-old Thing2 – already plastered to the ceiling in anticipation of Santa’s visit – had spent the morning migrating from lego projects to torturing his brother. At one point, he managed to combine activities, causing a crescendo of ‘MOM!’ from thirteen-year-old Thing1’s room. Thing1 had ‘accidentally’ knocked Thing2’s lego sculpture out of his hand. The ruins of his engineering masterpiece were strewn about the floor. One of the witnesses to the ‘accident’ was red faced, the other was in tears. I was chatting online with several customers at once and decided there wasn’t time to call in CSI to determine if the destruction was accidental or premeditated, and I ordered Thing2 to the living room for a cool-down on the iPad.
Lips pursed, arms folded over his chest, Thing2 marched to a corner of the couch after retrieving a blanket from his bunk. He stood on the couch, arranging the blanket just so and, when he had created his cave, grabbed the iPad from the table and retreated under the patchwork tent.
Thing2 has loved the iPad since it emerged from its sleek white box. Like most kids, he knows more about it than a seasoned software engineer, and I’m ashamed to admit that it plays babysitter too often on days like this.
The next day, each Thing retreated automatically to his own corner. One was in his room working on a computer project with a friend in Maine. Two was under his tent with headphones borrowed from daddy. For most of the morning, the only sound came from my keyboard.
That night, I finished work on time and, with a small break in the depression that had been amplifying for months, I thought an after dinner post was in order. But as the Big Guy took up residence on the couch for his winter’s nap and I began loading the wood stove to cook dinner, I noticed that it was still very quiet. The dishes clanking were the only noise.
Thing2 was still under the blanket and headphones, his legos and sketchbooks gathering dust. There was no new dance routine to watch and animate. There was no impromptu party waiting in his room. And suddenly I was scrambling for something to write.
Like a nagging housewife driving her husband to the arms of a lover, my quest for quiet had silenced my inspiration with electronic lithium.
Cousins arrived the next day, and neither child was interested in anything electronic as we celebrated Christmas.
The Monday after the family left, the silence was deafening, but the iPad was nowhere to be found. Thing2 emerged late in the morning, dragging his tent. He looked for his digital drug, but, not finding it, deposited his blanket on the couch and padded over to the Christmas tree where his latest Lego project was still sitting, the remaining 500 pieces sorted into empty ice cream buckets.
For the rest of the morning, he delivered a muted monologue of the building of his new starship. Occasionally, frustrated tears punctuated the chatter and interrupted my work. I broke up a few fights, but, when dinner time rolled around my inspirer-in-chief joined me in the kitchen to show me his latest dance moves. And, oddly enough, the noise made the work day better.
I didn’t write that night, but Tuesday morning, that probable snow day got me just rattled enough to get out of bed early and start tapping.