Snow Day

by Christopher Paul on January 16, 2007

Even though it was barely cold enough to wear a sweater today, I had a snow day. I’m not sure what the graduates of New York City schools have done when it snowed a lot but in the suburbs of my home town, they closed the schools. It was too risky to have kids shuttled in school buses going over snow covered – possibly icy – narrow, and winding roads. I went to a parochial school as a kid and they could make up any snow day at the end of the year so they were liberal in the use of unscheduled days off.

Of course, my younger brothers and I couldn’t have been happier! If they made the announcement early enough, my mom would let us sleep in; if we were already up, we’d relax and not worry about having to get ready for school. My mom would have breakfast ready for us soon after we came downstairs and it was always something good and warm. Normally, we’d only have time for cold cereal (Lucky Charms and Count Chocula were our favorites amongst many other sugar laced delights). But on snow days, my mother would make us a nice hot bowl of oatmeal, grits (yes, grits), with eggs, bacon, and sausage patties. Yum!

After our breakfast, we’d race around the house just overjoyed at not going to school. It wasn’t because we hated school – I think all of us enjoyed our private school experience. It was because we had all the time in the world to watch our cartoons (including the ones that were on after school started), play with our toys, and enjoy each other; back then, there wasn’t much of a sibling rivalry and we all got along with each other… most of the time. Of course, we got to go out in the snow!! It was half the fun of a snow day!

I lived on a road with no outlet – kinda like a cul-de-sac but with an island in the center instead of open space. There were no houses at the end of the road where, as we called it, The Circle was. And The Circle , although level, was elevated a bit from the surrounding landscape and the edges of it were hills. These hills (as you can imagine) were perfect for sledding. They were steep enough for us to get some speed but safe enough to keep us from hurting ourselves. The only drawback was the hills ended at the edge of the forest (or what we called The Woods) where prickly thorn bushes stuck to us if we caught enough speed; most of the time we were covered head to toe in snow gear so it didn’t get us but I remember a few times I got stuck.

Our next door neighbors to the right of us went to the same school we went to so we all had a snowday together. Most of the time, our neighbors on our left had off too but since they attended the public school, I can’t say they enjoyed as many snow days as we did. When they did have off, they would sometimes join us (and our neighbors to the right) and we’d all play in the snow together. All in, there were between 4 and 7 of us out there in the snow sledding, making snow angels, and, of course, having snowball fights.

When I say we had snow ball fights, I mean, we had snowball wars. They weren’t mean spirited. They were just scaled up beyond your regular grab some snow and toss it at someone snowball fight. When we played, we constructed snow forts complete with munitions bunkers, different outposts for launching our missiles, seats to sit on, and trenches (inside and out); the outside trenches made it harder to launch a direct attack on us from above and the internal ones let us move within our camp without fear of getting hit by enemy fire. We used natural cover from trees to help fortify our ground and we used the built up snowbanks created by the plows that went by earlier in the day. We’d buildup our stockpiles of ammo and at a predetermined time, launch our attacks together. We didn’t know how to declare a winner – nobody ever won or lost, really. Looking back at it makes me think we all learned something from our simulation.

After all of our games and sledding, we’d begin to get cold or tired (often both) and head in for a break. Of course, we’d all give my mom some grief because here we were cold, wet, and snow covered running into the house and dumping our snow suits, boots, hats, and mittens right on the entrance floor with nearly the same amount of energy we had when we ran out of the house. We didn’t mean anything by it. We were just glad to be back inside where it was warm – where we had hot chocolate waiting for us!.

I always thought my mother made the best cup of hot chocolate in the whole wide word. If I could still have it, I’d bet it would still be the best. I don’t even know she made it but it was the best thing anyone could have asked for regardless of how cold it was outside. She always had marshmallows on hand for us to stick into our mugs. Sometimes, they were the large ones which we got to dunk in the rich and creamy chocolaty drink. Most of the time, however, we had small marshmallows to add to our mugs. We easily fit 5 to 6 of them in at a time and it drove my mother crazy when we’d add more (or try to stuff 10 or so in the mug after the hot chocolate was poured).

Depending on how we felt, we’d often go out for round two of playing in the snow. The second time around was usually much shorter than the first because putting on cold clothes and running around in already bone-chilling weather wasn’t as novel an idea as it seamed when we first thought of it. If we didn’t go out again after our hot chocolate, we’d sit in front of the TV or play with our toys to help pass the time but it was usually a mellow and quiet period where we just rested from all the running around we did earlier.

We’d start to get bored around 1 or 2 because our afternoon cartoons weren’t on yet. I remember feeling restless around the early afternoon with what seemed like little or nothing to do. Truth be told, we had plenty of things we could have done but nothing ever seemed worthwhile. Eventually, our afternoon shows would come on and we’d be occupied again until dinner and bedtime. When we got tucked into bed, we sometimes hoped it would snow some more or the original snowfall was so bad that school would be canceled again the next day. Sadly, I only remember that happening once and I’m not sure how trustworthy my young mind is on that fact.

But with today being Martin Luther King Jr. day and the weather being kinda miserable, my wife and I recreated that snowday-like feeling by hanging out at home. All of our chores were done the day before so there wasn’t a thing we needed to clean up, fix, or do so we slept in a little. I woke up at 8:30 or 9 and took it easy all morning. I made myself a pot of coffee, read my blogs, transcribed some of my father-in-law’s poems onto his new website, and caught up on some much needed morning relaxing. In the afternoon, I watched a little TV and read some more short stories from my new book. And in the evening, my wife made a great popcorn crusted catfish from the FreshDirect delivery that showed up at 5:30. In between all my reading, TV watching, and playing with my computer toys, I had warm cups of tea and some cookies to bring me back to my childhood. And my friends were there too! My best friend was always close by and we got to do things together as if we were off from school.

I have to say, it was one of the best days off I’d had in a long time.

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