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Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you’re young at heart
For its hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart

Here in Columbus, Ohio, they call them “calamity days”. It’s when the snow piles up and the roads become slick with a mixture of slush and ice. It’s when the temperature drops to around zero degrees Fahrenheit and the mere threat of what the wind chill will be sends a shiver through your bones that there’s no denying. It’s when the frost that forms on your windows can be measured in terms of thickness and when you rub it off the scenery that is unveiled is encased in white.

It’s a day when they close the schools.

It’s the day to let your kid sleep in and make yourself that extra cup of coffee. To pass the time in a quiet house, you have the television turned to the local news and it’s there you’ll see breathless reporters outside decrying the elements and warning people to stay inside. For those brave souls who must venture outdoors, you’ll see live traffic reports and evidence of the hazardous conditions in the form of accidents and cars stranded on the side of the road. They’ll be all sorts of dire warnings and shots of the salt trucks trying to carve their way through the main streets and highways in a vain effort to make them passable. In your mind, it’s the perfect day to curl up with a good book and a warm blanket to keep you company.

In your kids mind, it’s the day to build an igloo….

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting with each passing day
And love is either in your heart or on its way

Ingredients

Snow, lots of it.
Time, about three or four hours depending on the size
Patience, a hefty dose
An old spaghetti pot
A strong back
Warm clothes and gloves
A pinch of inspiration and a touch of imagination

I think it was around noon when, after much cajoling on her part, we finally ventured out and surveyed the scenery. By that time, the snow that was falling had turned to freezing rain and had turned whatever had already fallen in that heavy “wet snow” that was ideal for packing. We shoveled out a circle in the front yard and began our little assembly line. She would dump the snow in the spaghetti pot and I would tamp it down. Then she’d dump more in and fill it to the brim and I’d tamp it down some more and then turn the pot upside down. We kept this up building layer upon layer of snow bricks in an ever tightening circle until it was a tall as she was.

Since no igloo is complete without a roof, we found an old piece of plywood buried in the basement and decided to resurrect it. We placed it atop our little ice hut and covered it too with snow. When all was said and done, the igloo could hold two people in relative comfort.

But then, some unforeseen circumstances arose. The wind kicked up and was blowing straight into the entranceway of our little fortress and in order to block it off, we had to build ourselves a little wall. Fortunately, by that time, the ice that had formed from the freezing rain was about an inch thick and had hardened just to the point where you could pick it up in huge slabs. After we were done, it looked like one of those low lying walls made from slabs of white stone

When we were done, cups of hot chocolate,a sense of accomplishment and the warmth of the house awaited us inside.

As the skies darkened, it got colder but there was one last thing to do to make our little ice house complete. My kid went downstairs, got herself an old stick, a piece of cardboard, some duct tape and her paint set. In no time at all, a crudely crafted handmade “For Rent” sign was placed in the spaghetti bucket along with some snow and ice to hold it in place.

Don’t you know that its worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
For as rich as you are its much better by far
To be young at heart

School stay closed for the next couple of days. During that time, we’d watch cars and pedestrians negotiate their way through the snow on their way to wherever they were going. Often times, they’d stop and whip out their camera phone and take a quick shot of our little project before moving on. You could see the little smile on their face and we both hoped that for one little moment, we provided a bit of warmth on a cold winters day.

I was making dinner when the doorbell rang. Apparently word had gotten out about our little effort and a local photographer wanted to take a picture of it for the weekly freebie that lands on our doorstep each week.

We’ll see if it runs…

And if you should survive to 105
Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive
Then here's the best part
You have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart

My neighbor, Floyd, is housebound. He’s an old World War II vet and at times is as crotchety as they come. Most of the folks in the neighborhood avoid him except to ask about him in conversation or pass on a tidbit of gossip. He doesn’t get out the house on his own too much anymore and relies upon meals on wheels for both his daily dose of food and maybe a bit of company. Conditions being what they were, the program was cancelled.

So, how hard is it to throw another burger on the Foreman grill? How hard is it to make another batch of fries and maybe shred some lettuce and cut up a tomato? How hard is it to get you and your kid dressed again and walk across the street with some piping hot food and some extra cans of soup just in case? How hard is it to exchange a phone number and sit and talk while your own dinner grows cold?

As it turns out, not very.

Like I said in my opening sentence, they call these kinds of events “calamity days” where I live. Given everything we’ve done, the bonding that went on between us, the smiles we provided to strangers and the kindness shown towards a neighbor in need, I’m thinking we need more of them.

At the very least, we need to call them something else.

Note: I’ve tried to uncover the original author to the lyrics of “Young At Heart“ and all I could come up with was that it was by two folks by the names of G.Leigh and J. Richards. No year of authorship was provided but over the years the song had been recorded and sung countless times. I think the first was way back in the 1920’s by Jimmy Durante and later in the 1950’s by Frank Sinatra. The latest version that I’ve heard and provided me with the inspiration for this w/u is by the one and only Tom Waits.

One last thing, it’s gotten warmer over the past few days. The igloo finally collapsed under its own weight sometime either last night or early this morning. Meals on Wheels is back on the road and providing a much needed service. All that’s left is a pile of partially melted bricks and a trunk full of memories.

I’m okay with that. CST Approved