Snow Day

A snow day from school is like finding Brigadoon. At least, that’s the way it felt when I was a kid. Do you remember?

“No school in the following towns…” the radio host would announce soberly, and then read down the list of town names, as thousands of kids crossed their fingers. We all would have slept with a transistor radio under our pillow, ready for this ritual of The Wait. I lived in a town beginning with ‘W’, and the school cancellation list was read in alphabetical order, so The Wait was long, torturous, and full of delicious anticipation—like Christmas morning before your parents come downstairs and all you can do is look at the presents under the tree and wonder about that large box with your name on it.

A snow day is a gift of a day of play—complete with a fabulous raw material of play: snow. By definition, there will be a lot of it—too much to get to school—but never too much to get out of the house and explore. A snow day is, by definition, a soaked mitten-and-snow-suit day.

First period: tunneling and burrowing in the drifts. Second period: rolling snowmen and tobogganing down Hurley’s Hill, Third period: snowballing crusades across the backyards, in and out of snow forts. The plows rumble the road, the sanding hoppers on their haunches making them look like elephants, reburying the end of the driveway all day long, creating more work for the snow blowers and greater opportunity for us snow miners and Eskimos. One snow day in particular I remember lying for hours in my burrow, cocooned in ice, listening to the compressed, polar silence at the bottom of the yard. A snow day is by definition, an igloo day.

The sounds and feelings of yesterday’s snow day could be lifted from a snow day thirty years ago. For the first few hours of the morning, nothing moves. There is no wind, and the snow adheres so thickly, branch by branch, that the trees turn to marzipan. An occasional snowplow growls along scraping the tarmac, its tire chains jangling like dog tags, its yellow beacon winking in the gloom. Then, slowly, other vehicles appear to make their tentative way down Main Street, snow tires murmuring in the soft ruts that appear between passes of the plow.

A snow day ends with a rewinding of the clock. Tonight will be last night. Today will be tomorrow, since the day’s plans have already been bounced ahead. And the wet mittens, boots, and snowsuits will be draped over chairs to sizzle dry by the wood stove, just like when I was a kid.

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