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Pony Express: Don't be a jerk -- seize the day

While our snowbird brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas are playing shuffleboard and lining up for early buffets in the warm climes of California, Arizona, Texas and Florida (which raises the question -- why doesn't anybody go to Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia?), the rest of us hardy souls who stay at home during the winter months have developed the skills of hunkering.

Yesterday, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, was a perfect day for hunkering. The temperature at 6:30 a.m. was -19° with a forecast of wind-chills at -35°. It just happened to be a national holiday, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and also Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C. No mail, many schools and banks closed, courthouses closed -- a good day to stay at home and hunker. Hunkering on the King and Inauguration Day meant watching the president's speech, Inauguration parade and festivities and learning more history in one day then any other day of the year.

But there will be (used to be) other opportunities for hunkering. My favorite is the all-out two or three day blizzard -- the kind of storm that shuts down everything -- schools, churches, businesses, highways, airports -- everything that is, except hospitals and healthcare. Aside from the health-heroes everybody else can take the day off, put on sweaters, turn up the heat and stay at home. They don'[t have those rare days of pleasure in Arizona, Texas, etc.

And what does hunkering consist of during those wonderful blizzards? Aside from praying that everybody is off the highways and the sick are all being cared for, imagination goes into high gear. In some homes the TV is unplugged and books are brought out. There is no greater pleasure than a good book on a long, stormy day. Even for kids (who cheered "Storm day, no school today - hurray!") Good cooks gather children to teach new and exciting dishes and desserts. Craftsmen gather children to teach and create new and exciting crafts and projects. Families dig out puzzles to assemble and games to play. And always -- hot soup for everybody. In good homes, families hunker together, stay warm and get reacquainted.

But sometimes a chump can ruin the atmosphere. I should know -- I've done it myself and I've never been allowed to forget it. There was such a storm day years ago when the wind was howling, snow was slashing horizontally, the temperature was -20° and everything was closed. Everything -- even the streets. But I had work to do back at the job. Consumed by guilt and ambition (90 percent guilt and 10 percent ambition) I saw a perfect opportunity to erase a ton of backlog without interruptions and phone calls. Against the urgent advice, pleadings and disgust of Eartha, I put on the warmest stuff I owned, tied a scarf across my face, strapped on a pair of cross-country skis, left a wife and three kids at home and plowed into the drifts and straight into the fierce north wind. It was awful, but it was only about a mile.

When I got there, there was a huge drift in front of the door. From the top of the drift, I reached down, put the key into the frozen lock, turned it and -- it broke off. There was no going in, going to the back door or doing anything else but turning around (with the north wind at my back -- but no warmer than before) and skiing back home, more humbled than disappointed to face what -- welcoming arms? No, to face the music. The music was something like, "Told You So" sung to the tune of "Three Blind Mice."

Told you so

Told you so

But you had to go

You had to go

You thought it important that you should work

You weren't a father, you were a jerk

You want a hug

But you're getting a smirk

Told you so

Told you so.

The moral of the story is this: There is no greater opportunity for genuine family warmth and togetherness than a cold, stormy, hunkering opportunity. Don't be a jerk -- CARPE DIEM (seize the day).