Among all the things potentially ruined by the pandemic, this one is minor, and many adults may not even grieve the loss. But I hope that I am wrong and the pandemic has not permanently eliminated snow days. There is a lot to be cherished in weather closures, for kids and adults.
It starts with the anticipation. It begins to build days ahead of time as the weather forecasts begin to come in, predicting a real storm, a significant storm. The idea is exciting, thrilling even. One flirts with that age-old human contradiction, dreading the potential consequences but unable to shut down the exhilaration of novelty and even its attendant danger. It feels safe to feel this way because, for most of us, fortunate as we are, a temporary power outage is the worst that is likely to happen.
Hopefully, one has time to prepare, stocking up on food and hot cocoa. Kids grudgingly put out their clothes for the next day hoping, hoping that they won’t have to change out of their pyjamas in the morning. As an adult, one tries to tie up loose ends at the office, just in case.
Maybe the snow starts on one’s way home from school or work. Perhaps the evening before. Or maybe, like this time, it sifts down for two weekend days. On waking, one’s first task is to look out the window and assess, followed by checking a news website for closures.
When a snow day is finally declared, one celebrates. Kids throw their arms in the air and shout. Adults think of all the work they need to do and feel guilty for their sense of relief.
Once one has dispensed with the shovelling and car clearing responsibilities, the day belongs to oneself. All the rules are suspended. Having popcorn for breakfast and watching movies all day is somehow acceptable. All those little household projects that need to get done are only done if someone feels like it. It’s a holiday, and somehow it feels even more liberating that the holidays that one expects. Barring vacation, a long weekend is so often seen as a chance to get things done around the house. A snow day, on the other hand, comes with full permission to do nothing.
The world is transformed, and no matter how many times one has experienced a big snow, there is an urge to get out and explore one’s mutated surroundings. One gears up, donning winter clothing like armor. The young and energetic wade through the drifts with sleds or construct their snow forts and rain their snowballs on one another. Somehow their shrieks and laughter only emphasize the deep hush that has fallen over the land. Their elders ford the deep mantle to a road, and if it hasn’t been plowed yet, they marvel at how it is altered.
Crafty sewing families get out their yardsticks, and the rest of us try to remember where we put our tape measure. It’s weirdly important to know how much snow there is, in inches. It is something we can share with our friends, and perhaps they will be as impressed as we are.
When we come in, our clothes smell like melting snow.
Even as the snow tapers off, we harbor a secret hope that somehow more will come in the night or that the roads won’t all be plowed in time. We prepare for the next day at school or work. We know the unexpected gift of our day off won’t leak into tomorrow. But we wish.
The next day we resent the snow. The roads are still slick or sloppy and wet. Maybe we have to clean off the car again in the morning before getting into the cold and somehow stiff vehicle. Snow is back to being just another inconvenience, and we long for warmer temperatures.
Granted, this scenario is very different for the people who have to be out in the snow. Delivery drivers, first responders, and those with mobility impairments have a very different experience, to say nothing of people who don’t have enough money to pay their heat bill or are experiencing homelessness. Parents who have to work struggle to find childcare. Their perspective is altogether more appropriate to the circumstances.
But for those of us lucky enough to really have snow days, it is a meaningful experience, an unexpected gem gleaming out from the quotidian of our everyday lives.
As I was writing this piece, the school district where I substitute teach has issued a robocall to inform everyone that tomorrow will be an all-remote learning day. Yes, remote learning and work will restore productivity to those lost days. But it will also take away something that helps us go back to school or work with more energy, a bit of our joie de vivre restored from the daily grind. Surely there is value in that, too.