Snowbound teens easily strip pantry clean

January 28, 2000|By Susan Reimer

I AM HERE to report that snow days with teen-agers are exactly like snow days with toddlers -- only on a larger scale.

The issues are the same: food, wet clothes and boredom. But trust me when I say that a bag of miniature marshmallows and a saucepan of hot chocolate won't get you through a snow day with 16-year-old boys who consume twice their weight in food at every meal.

Extra bread and milk won't cut it. I was scanning the skies and hoping for a United Nations' food drop.

That, and it takes four or five dryer cycles to restore their mountain of sodden clothes so you can send them back out into the snow. The one benefit of the age is that none of them will bother you with the fact that they suddenly have to go to the bathroom.

My son and his friends formed the first wave of occupying forces after this week's winter storm dumped 17 inches of snow in my neighborhood.

The boys, who have been Joe's friends since first grade, came armed with snow shovels. I whispered a quick prayer of thanksgiving for the wonderful job their parents had done in raising them.

They are here to dig me out, I whispered gratefully.

Wrong. They had come to build a snow fort.

Actually, "snow fortress" might be a better description. Here again, the matter of scale comes into play.

The boys spent three hours building a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath igloo. It had cathedral ceilings and a two-car garage, a deck and a wrap-around porch. It sits on 1,500 square feet of my yard and I am sure I will have to landscape around it in May because it will never melt.

Their snow fortress was a masterwork of brute strength, cooperation, patience and attention to detail. But the boys must have exhausted those qualities in building it because when I asked them to dig my van out of the snow -- so I could make a dash for more food -- they conveniently dissolved into a weak-willed, bickering group too stupid to figure out which end of a shovel to grip.

Finding snow removal an impossibly complex task and numbed by hours of video games, the boys -- I swear this is true -- were so at loose ends about 48 hours into the storm that they dragged out the Legos that have not occupied them in years.

My daughter and her friends arrived in the second wave. Just as the boys did with their Legos, each girl reconnected with her inner child.

Rosy-cheeked, eyelashes sparkling with snowflakes and swaddled in the pastel colors of their babyhoods, the girls kept collapsing in the snowdrifts, giggling at everything and nothing. They were so appealing I made them hold still in the bitter cold while I took pictures.

Each of my two children staked a claim to a snowy night and called together impromptu sleep-overs, and my family room is now piled high with comforters, odd pieces of unclaimed clothing and so much snack-food litter that it looks like the stands in Camden Yards after a 12-inning game.

These sleep-overs might better be called eat-overs: The kids went through my pantry like raccoons. There wasn't much there to begin with; I had not heeded the snow warnings, and in a matter of hours there was nothing at all. My children and their friends were muttering about what I cobbled together for meals, but nothing was left on any plates.

When I noticed the boys had emptied even the Brita water pitcher, I grew alarmed and was afraid even to put my hand into their cage, as it were. It was then that a neighbor -- bless him -- arrived with a box of doughnuts.

Moments later, I asked about the doughnuts. The response: "What doughnuts?" The boys had eaten them so fast they did not even remember the event.

If memory serves -- and it usually doesn't -- the last time I was snowed in for days with my children, they were just learning to read and I was afraid teachers would have to re-introduce the alphabet if school ever opened again.

This time, a week of snow days might mean a 100-point drop in SAT scores. If school doesn't open soon, my children and their friends might not be prepared to leave for college. And it only takes one blizzard for me to realize what a tragedy that would be for all concerned.

That is why I girded myself in the leftover mittens and boots and clomped out into the snow to dig out my car -- the same task the boys had found so impossible. My neighbors ridiculed me for fueling four 16-year-old boys only to tackle such a project myself, but I did not care.

If a child were pinned under the wheels of that van, I'd have found the strength to lift it. With seven teen-agers inside my house, I was equally motivated to free it.

"I'm going to work," I declared to my incredulous neighbors.

"But if the kids ask, tell them I went to the grocery store."

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