Things were different in Boston on Sunday. A massive snowfall will do that to a city.
As Boston came back to life, it did so in a landscape turned magically white and bright, with not much to do except go outside and play.
On Boston Common, hundreds of children sledded down the small hill near the parade ground. Moms held iPhones and shot video. Dads wiped noses. Toddlers squealed. Wrecks occurred. By noon, there was a pile of mangled sleds.
“There’s nothing better than this,” said Kelly Segal, who came from the South End with her husband and two children. “This is why you live in the city.”
“Our neighborhood feels like a Charles Dickens book,” said Laura Chew of Beacon Hill. “It feels so homey to see dads pulling their little kids around.”
Her roommate, Mary Kate Driscoll, who celebrated her 24th birthday during the storm, said: “Our neighborhood has never felt more together than it has this weekend.”
Indeed, many of those out and about on Sunday said it was the kind of day that made living in the northeast “worth it.”
On the parade ground, Liana Rao was making a little snow mountain while her husband and his brother tossed a football. She said that snowstorms like this take her back to her youth.
“It reminds me of the excitement of having a snow day,” she said, “and you stay outside until your toes and feet are frozen, and then you stay out some more.”
In the Public Garden, Ray Hall and his family were visiting from England. They were in love.
“The blue sky and the snow . . . it’s just magical,” he said. “If we could have booked up to come and see this, we would have. If we come again and it’s not like this, we’re going to be disappointed.”
Nearby, Jack Boyce, a 2-year-old from Australia, was getting his first taste of snow. He was eating it.
“He’s just delighted,” said his mother, Kate Boyce. “He’s never seen anything like this. We went out Saturday night after it stopped snowing, and I had to come inside because it was getting cold, but he stayed out with one of the neighbors.”
Snowstorms have a knack for turning the metropolis into a tiny village, the sort of place where a visitor can leave a child out with the neighborhood kids. Many reported that the city felt more gregarious, even friendly. Several reported that cars actually stopped for them to cross the street.
“It feels more like a community,” said Rebecca Fluhr, an Emerson student who lives in a dorm overlooking the Common, and said it has never felt like it did on Sunday.
“Usually you just walk through with your head down,” Fluhr said. “Now strangers are getting together to have a snowball fight.”
Fluhr had come out with some friends for what was being billed as the “World’s Largest Snowball Fight.” It wasn’t.
Two days before, a Facebook group had formed, hoping to break a world record. More than 1,000 had confirmed they were coming, and thousands more were invited. But Facebook pulled down the group listing, the organizers said, leading many to think it had been canceled.
Still, the 50 or so people who showed up seemed to enjoy throwing snow into each other’s faces.
Across the river in Cambridge, Harvard and MIT students had their own snowball war in front of the Cambridge Public Library. For the old rivals, the snowball fight came about after some MIT students snuck on to Harvard’s campus Saturday night and decorated the John Harvard statue in MIT gear.
On Sunday, trenches were dug. Shields were employed. Harvard had more numbers, and probably won, but MIT vowed to return next time with a catapult.
On the Esplanade, Cindy Barr was preparing to slap on her skis and follow the rows of cross-country tracks already carved along the Charles River.
“It’s just glorious, isn’t it?” she asked. “This was a great storm. Most people are getting their power back, so it’s not like Sandy where you have to feel bad. It was a bad storm, but all the good ones are.”
Nearby, Joanna Ng-Glazier and her husband, Scott Glazier, were playing on a zipline in a playground. Both are doctors, and both had worked during the storm. But with a little break and some sunshine, they came out to play.
“I’m from Hawaii, and people ask me why I left,” she said. “This is one of the reasons. Snow just changes the way you live for a couple of days. People are like kids again. You take a step back and reflect. The city goes on a hiatus. And it’s a Sunday.”
The problem is that Sundays are followed by Mondays. White snow will turn brown. Cars will clog the roads. And the rat race will begin again.
But for one glorious Sunday, all was still, quiet, and white, and many said it was worth it.