We stand at the edge of a storm, the third in the last week, predicted to unload another six inches of snow overnight. Like prison bars, the icicles stretch far outside the windows down to the lower drifts, which swollen with the piles deposited from the roof consumes much of the view of the back porch and my lil’ sister if she should venture outside. The blizzards of the last few weeks were efficient tyrants, burying all of the driveway, several of vehicles, and most of the house, locking its occupants inside together for a week. And still it continues to fall. After only a few days, the kids grew tired of the house walls and the blank empty landscape outside. Pining for girlfriends and jobs, the boys race outside with snow shovel and plow as soon as the last flakes fell, eager for the return of status quo.
Me? Well, not possessing either girl or gainful employment, seclusion is simply another workday for me; status quo finds me cycling through the latest online career builders and hourly iced tea breaks (job-hunting is stressful). What has become a prison for the family is an adventure for myself. As the snow begins to fall, the whole world seems to be transported, kidnapped to a pristine world of white blankets and glass columns. The very ground beneath our feet sinks with our weight, swallowing our legs as soft hand-thrown missiles explode across our face (Curse you, Shannon . . . ya jackass!). Inside the kitchen leaks the scent of home-baked pastries and hot chocolate, kindly set around board games by the fire. Cary Grant dodges crop dusters on the television screen and all is right with the world. If the house has indeed become a prison, it is at least a beautiful one.
And so much like the titular hero of a Dumas novel, seclusion becomes my ally: reading and writing while the kids dig their way to freedom. As long as the mind remains active, the body never tires. Keeping busy is essential during a blizzard. For though the pantry may be stocked with bread, Bisquick, and batteries, these prove not the most essential supplies.
Back in college, there was this story (I forgot who wrote it) about three or four people, who were brought into this small room together and simply told to wait: “They will see you shortly.” The three men (or possibly two men and one woman) in their boredom began talking to one another as the hours passed: cordial talk avalanching into clever jabs and hateful attacks, gradually erupting into enraged insanity. By the end of the book, the men (or men and woman . . . or women) gradually lose every ounce of their humanity, cutting and digging at each other’s most subtle weaknesses and gravest sins (Kafka perhaps? It’s the type of messed up story he would write.). In typical Rod Sterling fashion, you learn as the story closes (Or maybe we learn this at the beginning of the story. Did I even read the book?) that all three persons had died; that this was their eternal punishment. Hell is other people (Sartre’s “No Exit. There you go. I often wondered what would happen if the author had tossed some alcohol in that room. As such, the sole difference between Hell and Mardi Gras is a bottle of Crown Royale and two or three ping-pong balls.).
Anywho . . . snow days can dissolve into a living Hell if you’re not prepared. Many households give into insanity after only a few hours cooped up among their loved ones. That was the whole theme of The Shining, as I recall. Entertaining junior with various video games, books, movies or alcohol is critical before he finds the axe and chops through the bedroom door. From my experience, domestic tranquility can be achieved through any of these methods, especially board games: chess, checkers, Pictionary, Balderdash, D&D. With one sole exception.
Shannon suggested the Monopoly game early that morning. It’s somewhat of a family tradition whenever it snows to play, so that over the years we own several different versions of the game. Somehow among the flotsam of the game closet we managed to piece together all the necessary pieces: a Looney Tunes board, Star Wars-themed properties, Simpsons-shaped game tokens, Chance cards suggesting college football teams, a mountain of rainbow-colored currency, and a pair of red and white dice (the latter of which escaped from a Pop-o-matic Trouble game).
Anyone who has played Monopoly knows it is a cold ruthless game, one of intrigue, greed and a good deal of begging. Declarations at the onset (“I will own this side of the board. When I do, you all will crumble before me.”) diminish to quiet whining after an hour (“That was a seven! Not an eight! It bounced across the Chance cards. That doesn’t count.”). Inevitably, the blame always falls on the banker at some point or another. Accusations fly across the table of back alley deals and disappearing bills amounting to several thousand dollars of game currency. Trades always generate accompany a visit to the rule book; those left without a monopoly find their attentions drawn to the latest movie, and the few moguls seize the opportunity to seize the scraps. All in all, it’s a rough game. Feelings are rarely left unscathed, and tempers always flare from someone (“I will beat you to death with the game board if you buy another house . . . ”). The sobs of the losers echo through the house, eclipsed every so often by the winners cackle as another rival finds their way to Illinois Ave. And then . . .
“Crap! Shannon, if you don’t wipe that smile off your face, I will force feed you, your own hotel.”
You lose everything.
Thus, do yourself a favor, spend time with your kids: play games, build snow forts, shoot ducks, mix drinks, watch late night Cinemax together as a family. Just do not play Monopoly. Or at least do not play it with anyone you may like. Or hope to marry one day. After all, the snow is still falling. You have a few more days together at least, and one loss always spurs a rematch.