The evolution of snow days

Published 8:53 am Tuesday, February 23, 2021



I grew up in northern Illinois. Each of the four seasons got its turn and each made the most of it.

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Thunderstorms and flowers in the spring? Check. Zillion degree heat and lots of humidity in the summer? Check. Stunningly beautiful fall foliage? Check.

Then came winter and snow. Lots of snow. Because we were Midwesterners, for the most part, we just dealt with the snow.

You owned a snowblower and good boots. You knew to keep blankets and a shovel in the trunk of your car. Sledding was a regular winter pastime.

But every now and again, the road crews got overwhelmed and the schools called a snow day. Was there anything more magical than waking up to discover that you had a day off school? It was the pinnacle of childhood delight.

As with so many things in life, the coronavirus has messed up snow days. I shake my fist at you, COVID! Stealer of childhood fun!!

It’s not just that true snow days have become rare, now that virtual learning is so readily accessible. Right now, my children actually want nothing in life quite so much as to go to school. The hybrid learning schedule – two days in the building, three days at home – makes each day of in-person interaction precious.

Every day, my kids rush me out the door in their eagerness to get to school and each afternoon they return radiant, bubbling with stories from the day. There are guinea pigs in the science lab! We had tater tots for lunch! The rolling scooters in the gym are so fast!

There were many, many tears the first time that school got canceled due to weather this winter. What a reversal for the once-venerated snow day.

And not only were they denied the pleasure of seeing their teachers and friends, they were also denied the pleasure of a lazy day of snowballs and hot cocoa, since virtual school meant a full day of Google meets and online assignments.

That’s not to say that we made no allowances for the circumstances. Since I also work from home, we splurged on pancakes for breakfast – squeezing them in between virtual lessons – and the kids did in fact spend a significant amount of time outdoors frolicking.

This in turn led to a significant amount of laundry and house cleaning since there wasn’t really enough snow for sledding and my children stomped cheerfully through the house in their muddy snow pants and boots.

Did my son and I get so engrossed in a computer game we both enjoy that he missed one of his school meets? Yes, yes we did. As a responsible parent, I should have been upset about this oversight.

Confession: I was not upset. We were having a ball.

Then came the threat of the ice storm, which my children approached with a glee born of innocence.

They’re too young to remember the 2009 ice storm, and we didn’t live here then anyway, so in their minds, a power failure was desirable as it would put an end to virtual school.

They did ice dances and sent up prayers to the ice gods to bring down the power lines. They excitedly rounded up candles and checked batteries and watched in bemusement as I filled the bathtub with water – “just in case.” They piled blankets in the living room, prepared to camp out in front of the fireplace.

The power stayed on, but school was canceled anyway and I paid them $11 each to scrape and shovel the ice off the driveway. That’s serious money when you’re a kid. They were at it for hours and I can’t think of a better use of $33.

Snow followed the ice and the outdoor fun continued in earnest, despite the freezing temperatures.

While I refused to venture forth for more than the few minutes required to walk the dog, my crazy kids spent hours on the sledding hill, building snowmen in the yard, and “decorating” the lawn by spritzing the snow with colored water.

Good times were had by all – including the dog, who finds snow drifts hilarious.

And now I’m ready for spring.