Saturday 15 June 2019

Liz Kearney: After the panic-buying and fretting, Storm Emma can remind us what's important

Ethan Gray, Tom Eagers, 2, Olivia Gray, 7 and Caroline Gray, enjoying the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eager
Ethan Gray, Tom Eagers, 2, Olivia Gray, 7 and Caroline Gray, enjoying the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eager

YOU go shopping and buy a year's supply of bread, then realise you've nowhere to put it. You check the children have something warm to wear and curse the fact that they don't because the last time it snowed, you had no children. You make complicated working-from-home arrangements and contingency childcare plans.

You check the school WhatsApp group every two minutes for an update. The school's shut and your heart sinks. You wonder if you can pawn your children off on someone for a bit while you try to get some work done. You bring all the logs in from the shed and calculate how many fires you can make if the heating packs in. The answer is not enough. You wonder if you could, in an emergency, chop up the kitchen table. You've never liked it anyway.

You remember to give the birds some bread and momentarily feel like St Francis of Assisi. You worry that bread was the wrong thing to give the birds, and that you've now killed them all. You wonder if you should have given the birds bread when you might run out of bread for your own children. You retrieve some of the bread and leave it on the kitchen counter, just in case.

You worry if your parents will be warm enough. You ring them to ask if they're warm enough, but end up asking them to mind your children instead. They mind your children while you try to get some work done. You feel guilty about this, but at least you know they're warm enough.

You fret that the snow is going to get heavier. You turn the radio on and a climate expert is saying that today's snow is nice snow, but tomorrow snow won't be nice. Tomorrow's snow will be 'wet and clingy', not fluffy like today's snow. You fret that you have missed the best of the snow. You are now worried about both the quality and the quantity of the snow.

You go shopping again and buy some more bread. You survey the almost-empty shelves and wonder when everyone stopped doing low-carb diets. You wonder if you should go on a low-carb diet, once you've eaten your year's supply of bread.

You look out the window and worry that it won't snow at all, and all of this will have been in vain and you'll feel foolish for over-reacting. Then you listen to the weather forecast and worry that you'll be snowed in until April.

Somewhere in the middle of all this fretting, the first flurry of snow arrives, like icing sugar floating from a sieve. And the children rush together to the window, and point in delight at their first ever snowflakes. Suddenly everything is quieter, and you're transported back to childhood winters long ago, when there were snowdrifts so deep they came halfway up the front door and the hills outside the town were transformed into Alpine slopes, perfect for tobogganing down. Back then, someone else was worrying about the heating breaking down and the bread running out.

And looking at your own children now, you realise this is their snow. Their moment.

This weather is mercifully rare but maybe it gives us a gentle reminder that we are more than just a rat race, more than just the weekly shop, more than just worrying about deadlines and drop-offs. Sometimes we are a world frozen in time, where shrieking children with ice-cold hands throw snowballs and their parents, just for once, stop fretting for long enough to join them.


Irish Independent

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