When I was shoveling over the weekend, my mind drifted to a more carefree time, when snow had nothing to do with work and everything to do with play. I’m going to say it was the late 1960s, when I was in elementary school, that snow days were the most magical. The evening before, my mom would let us know that snow was on the way, and my dad would talk up the probability. By the time my brothers and I went to bed, we were pretty worked up, kind of like how we felt on Christmas Eve.
Having slept fitfully, I’d get out of bed before dawn and creep down the stairs. My first stop was the den, where I’d get what I called a puff (a cotton comforter) out of the storage area underneath the window seat cushion and wrap it around my jammy-clad body. Then, I’d slink into the living room, headed for the wood cabinet in the corner that held the turn table and radio. The AM dial was either illuminated or it had become light enough outside for me to find the station that had the information I sought.
Volume turned down low, I’d sit on the floor with my back against the front of the cabinet and listen. The school cancellations were read in alphabetical order every 15 minutes or so. When the announcer started the list, I’d hold my breath. As soon as I heard that Holland Hill Elementary School was closed, my efforts at being silent instantly ceased. I’d jump up and yell, “No school!” Then I’d tear back up the stairs and into my parents and brothers’ rooms to share the news with them, as if they hadn’t heard already.
A Holland Hill Elementary School cancellation did not mean I’d be shoveling, or scraping the windshield of the car, or driving on unplowed roads to work. Instead, it meant that my mom was going to make us pancakes for breakfast and that my dad, if he was lucky enough to get the day off, too, was going to load our Flexible Flyers into the back of the station wagon and then drive us to Fairfield University – to the big hill. When I was really young, in kindergarten or first grade, I’d pile onto my Dad’s back as he lay on the sled, and we’d barrel down the hill together.
My mom stayed home during these adventures – I suspect enjoying the quiet after suggesting that my dad spend some time with us. When we got home, red-cheeked from the cold and pleasantly exhausted from climbing the hill, she’d make hot chocolate. We’d kick off our boots, peel out of our jackets and snow pants, pull off our hats and mittens, and sit at the kitchen table with my mom, reliving each run, cherishing every minute of our snow day.