Ahhh, snow days.
Those magical days growing-up, when the world came to a soft white standstill and our home seemed liked a warm and cozy playpen. I have 6 sisters and two brothers – the rhythm method left us neatly spaced and in arms reach of a playmate, making snow days pure heaven.
Rising to hear or to read along the bottom of the TV screen that Strongsville schools were closed was exciting, but when the words St. Joseph Elementary were spoken or scrolled by the rejoicing really began.
After a warm breakfast á la Mom, we headed to the basement to conduct a seasonal swap shop of snow clothes. This process was quite elaborate – each of us had our own negotiating style, which usually led to agreeable exchanges and deals, but sometimes arguments developed, conflicts escalated and tears were shed over whose hand-me-downs were whose. I don’t think we ever tried to claim each other’s new items, ownership of those was established and respected, but everything else was up for grabs.
After the swap, we began layering on our socks, leggings, pants or snow pants and suspenders, shoes, plastic bags (plastic bread bags over our shoes made slipping are feet into our boots a breeze), sweaters, jackets, hats, scarves gloves and boots. (The younger ones really did look like Ralphie’s little brother in the snowsuit in “The Christmas Story”.)
We then headed up “the hill” at the top of our street for raucous snowy fun with our saucers, sleds and in later years, toboggan. Some days we spent hours there, other days we were headed home within 30 minutes. Funny, but I remember the feeling of the freezing wet snow against my wrists as it worked its way between my gloves and sleeves, better than I remember actually sliding down the hill.
Our return trip through the basement door included lots of pushing and shoving as we raced each other to shed our gloves, hats, scarves, jackets, boots, bags, sweaters, snow pants, leggings and socks. Once our clothes were off, I remember running up the wooden basement steps to the kitchen, half-dressed with towel wrapped around my waist for warmth. Looking back, I have no clue what happened to the clothes I originally descended with, but the final scene of a snow day outing – sipping hot chocolate in the kitchen – includes towels and robes more than shirts and shoes.
My Mom always had hot chocolate waiting for us, and she made the best ever. She never scrimped on the chocolate, used powdered sugar for the sweetener, stirred in only whole milk and always served her sweet concoction topped with marshmallows. I remember the older kids – whoever they were at any given time – were charged with counting the marshmallows for equal distribution. We were an honest bunch overall, but kept an eye on each other when there was counting underway, because sneaking, though unacceptable, did occur.
Each memory I have of a trip up and down our snowy hill ends with the scene of three or four of us red-cheeked, sporting sweaty, hat-hair and sitting around our white Formica, oval-shaped, way-too-small kitchen table sipping away, feeling safe and happy on our snow day.
I hope this January you get to create snow day memories for you and yours, and remember snow days are a truly a state of mind. When the thermostat hits 60 in Florida, I start planning mine.