When Zeke was 20 months old or so, we woke to a white world. She ran outside, crying out, “It snowded, it snowded.” She wanted to stay home from daycare and play in the snow, and although I was overwhelmed with papers at work and hated canceling classes, I decided the occasion of her first big snow was worth celebrating. We made snow people and threw snow balls and rolled around in the wild white world till we froze, and then we drank hot chocolate with marshmallows in it while our hands and feet fizzed back to life.
Today she doesn’t remember. She’s a finicky teenager who says, “yuuk,” when she sees the frosty light of a snowy day. She’s girly, not the tomboy of her earlier years. Something switched in her a few years ago, the thing that happens when you’re growing up and trying not to be like your mother, I suppose. My mother liked looking good and wearing the right clothes, while I fought her attempts to tame my wild hair and polish me up. Now Zeke, the incorrigible tomboy, has to have perfect nails, wear carefully chosen clothes, and spend an hour a day straightening the wild mass of hair she inherited from me.
When she was tiny, though, still young enough to love snow days for the pure joy of playing in the snow, she gave a hint at what she would grow into. I remember her, way back when she was two or three, picking out her clothes every night before “school.” It wasn’t a habit I taught her, or even suggested. It was just what she started doing one evening. I was getting her ready for bed, and she dragged a bunch of clothes out of her drawers and arranged them on the floor. She tried three or four different combinations of tops and bottoms before settling on the outfit she wanted (at the time a rather wild mixture that my mother would not have approved of). From then on, her evening routine included picking out her clothes and arranging them on the floor, so that one might be forgiven for thinking, in the dim glow of her nightlight, that a flat little person was lying on the floor. Sometimes her choices were interesting, but woe betide anyone who suggested she wear something different than what she had chosen. Even as a tiny child, her strong personality and absolute determination were obvious.
“That kind of personality is hard for you now,” her pediatrician told me. “But it’s good later on. Nobody’ll be able to convince her to do what she doesn’t want to do. And that includes drugs and drinking, if she’s set against it.”
Zeke has no interest in drugs or drinking, and she resists peer pressure, just as her long-ago doctor predicted. She still chooses her clothes and arranges them on the floor the night before school. And today, when she saw the world covered in white, she said rather nostalgically: “Maybe they’ll cancel school tomorrow and I can go play in the snow.”
I hope so. If she plays, I’ll play too.