Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Grown Up Snow Day


When I was a kid growing up in Pittsburgh during the winter, we used to watch the snow falling from the early morning sky with great anticipation. Maybe today would be a snow day! Dressed and ready for school, but crossing our fingers and toes, my siblings and I lounged in the living room, usually off-limits to us kids, and listened to the stereo cabinet console tuned to KDKA, the station for information, hoping the DJ would read our school district's name. And not just a delay. We wanted the full day, free and clear. If by a miracle our school was announced, a feeling of jubilation settled on us—like a Get Out of School Free card in the game of life. 

We were fortunate while growing up to live in a suburban neighborhood on a steep hill.  If the snow remained, we could haul out the sleds and use the slope to our full, joyful advantage. Out east the snow was wet enough to make forts, snow balls, and snowmen. There was never a lack of outdoor activities, much to my mother’s great relief, I’m sure. At some point, a snow ball inevitably smacked my face or oozed down my back with its icy claws leaving me in tears—a victim of malicious snow assault.

On frigid weekends, my parents sometimes packed our ice skates and took us to Canonsburg Lake in nearby Washington County. The ice moaned and creaked beneath our blades adding to our thrill. My mom called us in only if it was a) time for lunch
b) word reached the shore that someone fell through the cracking ice or c) the frozen lid began to undulate too much for her comfort. That’s the way it was back then. We didn't know to wear bike helmets or bother to fear the ice until there was something to be afraid of. We just skated for joy.

Sadly, I no longer listen to the radio in eager hope. I now live in a little mountain town well accustomed to five or six months of winter. My kids have never experienced the delicious joy of an official snow day. Snow is just a way of life. 

But I still get a thrill with the first heavy snow—the one that covers my long driveway in creamy frosting layers and coats the peaks with vanilla whip. Snow still means play. With the fresh layer of snow neatly laid, I break out the cross-country skis, anticipating that first click of my toe-clip into the lock and the silent gliding of my skis over a trail. Fresh powder is the ultimate temptation for kids to impose their own snow days and head for the resort.
Sure I have to shovel the driveway, and it’s long…and steep.  But it’s great exercise and fun excuse to get out and watch my dog bury his nose in the snow, on the scent of a deer or bunny.  And the view of snow capped peaks against a bright, azure sky is one that takes my breath away, even after 20 years.

If you’re from the tropics, you can keep your lemons and make your lemonade. Me? If the heavens give me snow, I'm going to make ski tracks. And if you happen to be in town, think about taking a snow day. I have a few sleds and that steep driveway is wicked fast! Afterwards, when our cheeks are red and stinging with cold and our mittens wet with snow, we can come inside and cozy up next to the wood burner. I’ll make us some hot chocolate spiked with a little adult liqueur and even offer you a few sweet marshmallows to top it off. It'll be the best grown-up snow day ever.


  1. Should I pack for one week or two???

    I was raised in Arkansas from 8 - 16, and if it snowed, Little Rock shut down. I can remember a few snow days, hitting a nearby hill for some cardboard sledding action.

    Snow days are, and likely always will be, my favorite time of year.

  2. Two. Definitely.

    When I was writing this, just for a minute, I got that excited feeling in the pit of my stomach, almost like Christmas, remembering what those days were like-- waiting, waiting for our school's name to be read. Oh, and the glorious freedom. My poor kids are deprived this childhood memory.

  3. I wouldn't say I'm from the tropics, but here in North Carolina we barely ever get snow. And if we do, it never sticks around long enough to enjoy.

    I'm originally from up North (Illinois) where we always had snow, and sometimes I really miss it. I miss having a good hard blizzard every once in a while, so I completely understand your love for that wondrous white powder.

    1. Demetria --I spent last night in Charlotte and am sitting in the airport even as I type. It's pretty darn warm here. My sister and I were commenting on the green grass, birds singing, and even pansies growing in the garden. Nice change of pace from the snow.

    2. Woo hoo, welcome to my neck of the woods. How nice of you to drop through the Carolinas. It was unseasonably warm this past weekend.

      I think we got into the 70s, so you can see what I mean about wanting a nice, hard blizzard every once in a while just to remind me of home. Not often though, because I do like the mild winters here, too.