Those two little words were magical when I was a child, and as far as I can tell, will remain magical as long as there are children. Here in the midwest, there is a small cadre of traditions that are supposed to bring on a snow day...talismans, if you will, that the children seem mysteriously to intuit the way that they learn jump-rope rhymes and "jinx you owe me a soda" and "I'm tell-ing!" without anyone ever apparently teaching them. If, on a snowstorm-promising evening, you flush ice cubes down the toilet, put your pj's on inside-out, and put a spoon safely under your bed just before you get tucked in, you are nearly guaranteed a snow day come morning.
Absurdity notwithstanding, I have been known to indulge these talismans a few times. We did none of them last night--indeed, my children rarely request them anymore--but it is just possible that they didn't feel the need to dash madly downstairs for a spoon before bedtime last night because by dinnertime yesterday, school had already been called off for today.
When I was growing up, we didn't have such rituals. But I suspect that is only because we didn't need them: it only snowed a handful of times during my entire childhood in Atlanta, and any snow was sure to result in a snow day because the city owns not a single plow, and no one knows how to drive in snow. In fact, the only way a southern city can deal with a snowstorm is this: close everything and wait for the white stuff to melt.
I have vivid memories of the snows of my childhood.
Putting on my ice skates to walk to a neighbor's house where my mom was visiting. I didn't have boots. The skates seemed a very logical choice to me. I felt very proud of my seven-year-old self for thinking of them.
Being walked home by my best friend's mother who brought a giant black umbrella to meet us for the snowstorm early-dismissal and made us walk under the umbrella with her so we wouldn't be killed by falling tree limbs on the way to their house. Greeted by a mother with a life-saving umbrella. Forced to walk away from the school in front of all of our friends under said umbrella, to protect us from tree limbs laboring under approximately 2" of snow. In eighth grade. Easily the most mortifying moment of my life up until that point.
Fashioning boots out of grocery bags to keep our feet dry. (This, contrary to what you might think, is not mortifying. Everyone does it--or did in the 1970s and 80s, back before big, ugly, fleece-lined boots were fashion items. It just makes sense.) First, you put on your thinnest socks, covered by your thickest socks. Then, you take a plastic grocery bag and tuck your foot into it, using one of those big tan rubberbands to secure the bag at your ankle. Then you put on your tennis shoes, or whatever footwear you own that seems most likely to give you some traction in the snow. Tuck the top ends of the bag up into your pants. And your feet do not get wet.
Sledding on cookie sheets down the short steep street on which our house was perched. Yes, sledding into the cross street at the bottom of the hill--because streets in southern cities are simply tree-free sledding zones on a snow day. No one is foolish enough to drive a car on them. (Once the sled run is really well packed, you can switch to a garbage-bag sled, which is faster. Just open the seam at the bottom of the bag, step into the giant plastic tube, bunch up the excess in your hands to pull the bag taut across your entire back side, take a running start, and fling yourself onto the hill.)My children's memories of snow days involve a lot more gear--snow pants! boots! parkas! real sleds!--and the possibility of building an entire fort made of snow. (When we made snowmen as kids, we generally had to use up nearly all the snow in the yard.) These days are far less rare than the four snow days I recall from my entire childhood. But they are no less alluring.
Happy snow day! And stay warm if you, like us, are anticipating temperatures in the range officially known as stunning cold by this afternoon.