With snow storms heading toward much of the east, I couldn’t help but remember how when I was a kid, rising to hear or to read along the bottom of the TV screen that your school was closed was a definite time for rejoicing.
Those magical days, when the world came to a soft, white standstill and our home seemed liked a warm and cozy playpen, are still fondly etched in my mind. I’m the middle child of nine and, lucky for us, the rhythm method left us neatly spaced and in arms reach of a playmate at all times, making snow days pure heaven.
After a warm breakfast á la Mom, we headed to the basement to conduct a family swap of snow clothes. This process was quite elaborate. Each of us had our own negotiating style with the goal of getting the warmest or most comfortable winter gear, 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 others’ 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, extra pants or snow pants and suspenders, shoes, plastic bags (plastic bread bags over our shoes made slipping our feet into our boots a breeze), boots, sweaters, jackets, hats, scarves and gloves. (The younger ones really did look like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story”, which by the way was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio where I grew up.)
We then trudged up our street to “the hill” at the top for snowy fun with our saucers, sleds and in later years, toboggan. Some days we spent hours there, other days we 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, more clearly than I remember actually sliding down the hill, which was steep and bumpy and truly not sled worthy, but was the only hill in walking distance.
We were a well-trained bunch, and always returned through the basement, which acted as our mud-room. Our trip back inside included good-natured pushing and shoving as we raced each other through the door to shed our wet layers.
Within minutes, our clothes were off and were tossed haphazardly over the indoor clotheslines hung from the exposed support beams above us. We then raced up the open-backed, wooden basement steps to our cozy kitchen, half-dressed with towels wrapped around our waists for warmth and to dry our backsides. It seemed no matter how many layers of clothes we had on, we came home wet after sledding. Looking back, I have no clue what happened to the clothes we originally descended with, but we ended-up sipping hot chocolate in the kitchen in towels and robes more often than in shirts and shoes.
My Mom always had hot chocolate waiting for us. She made the best. She never scrimped on the chocolate, used powdered sugar for the sweetener, stirred in only whole milk and always served her delicious concoction topped with tiny melting marshmallows. I remember the older kids – whoever the older ones were at any given moment – were charged with counting the marshmallows for equal distribution. (We were an honest group overall, but kept an eye on each other when treats were present.)
Each memory I have of the trips up and down our snowy hill ends with the scene of at least three or four of us red-cheeked, sporting sweaty, hat-hair and sitting around our white, chipped Formica, oval-shaped, way-too-small, kitchen table sipping away, feeling safe and happy on our snow day.
Reliving fond memories is a great way to fight off cabin fever or the winter blahs. I hope this winter 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 degrees in Florida, I start planning mine.
P.S. I first shared this post on Wishful Thinking Works in January of 2011 but upon hearing of blustery snow storms up north, it brought back such sweet memories, I made a few edits and decided to share it again today.