I can hear the waterlogged slurp of cars driving by on the street. It’s less than a dusting so far, but the forecast calls for heavyish snow this afternoon. I check the OPM website to confirm — our first and probably only snow day of the year.
Unlike this delightful firefox, I waste no time at all celebrating. I don’t even attempt to go back to bed. My greatest excitement is that I get to rock sweatpants all day, maybe even my space-themed feety pajamas if things get wild. I might not bother to put on deodorant. Who am I kidding? I’m definitely not putting on deodorant. Take me as I am — with the vague smell of yesterday.
This is great. This is going to be so great.
At thirty, a snow day is an unexciting but functional marriage, together for the tax breaks and to divide the chores. But it used to be better than that, Snow Day. We used to love each other. There used to be passion. There used to be snow suits. We used to get Freezy Freakies.
A snow day used to be this grand and fantastic occurrence that ambushed you from behind, gave you a hilarious wedgie, and then gave you the bigger half of its King Size Butterfinger. Better than assemblies or talent shows, bake sales or book fairs. Those clowns interrupted your school day, but you still had to raise your hand and stay quiet. Your teacher still had her eye on you, and she probably collected your homework, a ditto on contractions.
But not on a snow day! It was the greatest surprise in the history of school, aside from Friday night rollerskating or after school intramurals. Ok, or field day. But field day is like, some next level shit.
There weren’t many opportunities to align with our teachers — we stood at odds on important issues of the day like running in the hallways, throwing solid objects indoors, and whether or not cursive was stupid. But snow days? No-brainer. Unanimous support.
When the forecast called for snow, no one in all of Applegate School was more enthusiastic than Mrs. Summonte (or Miss O’Grady if you knew her before she married our gym teacher). She’d gather all the first graders in an impromptu, top secret, super important meeting. No one spoke out of turn because it seemed serious and grave. And when she told us that we were going to do a Snow Dance, you’d have thought she told us that Splinter had been kidnapped by the Foot Clan. We would have done anything to help.
It was easy to fit all sixty of us around the class piano because our classrooms had an open layout. Our school was organized in “pods,” alcoves with desks in them, separated by walls but no doors. Peninsulas of learning, if you will.
Mrs. Summonte would pass out a few maracas and tambourines. She’d pump her fists slowly to signal the rhythm. Mrs. Paradiso, who was cool but maybe not as fun as Mrs. Summonte, on the piano, playing low notes that kept time. On beat, Mrs. S said the word, starting with a whisper. Snow. And then again. Snow. As first graders, we didn’t always catch on that quickly, but this one was pretty simple. Snow. Snow. Snow. We did the single clap on beat, getting louder and louder. Faster and faster. And then, after a minute of chanting like the roof, the roof, the roof was on fiyah, Mrs. Summonte opened her eyes as wide as could be and drew her hands into two closed fists. It was over.
“Now, whatever you do, don’t say the ‘S’ word for the rest of the day or it won’t happen,” she told us. We were six years old and we believed. We believed so hard. We told the fifth graders on our bus to be quiet. To stop saying the ‘S’ word! And they laughed because they knew a different ‘S’ word. But we were serious! We didn’t want them to ruin all our hard work. We didn’t want them to disappoint Mrs. Summonte.
Snow days meant hot cocoa and snow suits. Walking to the Ruzga’s house and sledding down Mount Ruzga and eating grilled cheese while we put our hats and gloves in the dryer. We’d never last the full 60-minute dryer cycle. We’d pull our clothes while they were hot but still damp, almost steamy. To protect our feet, we wore two pairs of socks and lined our boots with plastic grocery bags. To be honest, I don’t think it ever really worked. But no one cared! It was a snow day! To care was opposite the point!
We didn’t notice if it disrupted our parents’ work schedule, didn’t care about the dirty mounds of snow piled in parking lots for weeks. We wanted it all. We wanted it now.
For adults, snow days are born of liability, so no one gets hurt or sued. We work from home; we multitask. We catch up on laundry. We get a few extra winks of sleep and maybe deep condition our hair.
As I stir the big pot of spaghetti sauce that I’ve already planned to freeze in smaller containers, I no longer wonder what kills the magic. Pragmatism.