On a day like today, I think about Going To Alaska. I escaped work by trudging over to the gas station on the corner. Slowly. Slowly. Keeping the snow below the edge of my sneakers, and keeping my feet under me. I drive a stick. I live upstairs. I can’t be breaking my ankle. It was cold, but I was bundled up well. I stepped in someone else’s footprints, down the sidewalk.
One of my favorite wintertime games in elementary school followed this agenda: walk in large circles, following a pretend route on a pretend map, and speak solemnly of our preparation, progress, and hope for Going to Alaska.
My friend Eric was a valued member of our expedition. I still see him occasionally, and he is probably also imagining himself Going to Alaska today.
In those days, children were sent outside for recess every day. There was some windchill rule (which I never remember being enforced), and if you did not have snowpants and boots, you were not allowed out in the field on certain days, but everybody went outside. It kept you healthy, all that fresh air. No one was allergic to snow. No one had asthma. The athletic among us played soccer and softball, and nerds like Eric and me, we went to Alaska.
We learned a lot of valuable lessons on these days. We learned to make our own meaning. We learned to pretend like we knew where we were going. We practiced complaining. These are critical adult skills, whether you are Going To Alaska or Going to Buy a Snickers, as I was today.