With snow storms heading toward much of the northeast, I can’t help but remember the feeling of joy I felt when rising to hear (or to read along the bottom of the TV screen) that our school was going to be closed because of snow flurries. Even though I loved school, those messages were pure bliss to me.
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 always in arms reach of a playmate, making snow days exciting and fun.
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 on occasion 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, extra pants or snow pants and suspenders, our shoes and boots, (plastic bread bags over our shoes made slipping our feet into our boots a breeze), and finally we donned our sweaters, jackets, hats, scarves and gloves. My youngest siblings looked like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story”, which by the way, partially filmed in Cleveland, Ohio where I grew up. The house is still a major tourist attraction on Cleveland’s West Side.
We then trudged up our street to “the hill” for snowy fun with our saucers, sleds and in later years, toboggan. Some days we spent hours there, other times we headed home within 30 minutes using the temperature and moisture level of the snow as our guide. 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 safe walking distance.
We were a well-trained bunch, and always returned to our house through the basement door, which led to a small hallway that served as our mud-room. Our trip back inside included good-natured pushing and shoving as we raced to shed our wet layers.
Within minutes, our jackets and snow pants were off and were tossed haphazardly over the indoor clotheslines hung from the exposed metal support beams above us, clothespins were used to hang the additional sopping layers. I am sure most of our clothing ended-up languishing on the floor, much to my mother’s chagrin. We then raced-up the open-backed, wooden basement steps to our cozy kitchen, with towels wrapped around our waists for warmth and to dry our frozen backsides. It seemed no matter how many layers of clothes we had on; we came home soaked to the skin. Looking back, I have no clue what happened to the clothes we originally descended the stairs with, but we sipped hot chocolate in the kitchen in old terry cloth towels and thick socks more often than in shirts, pants 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 in any given year – 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, oval, chipped Formica, way-too-small kitchen table sipping cocoa, 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 reminiscing about mine.
P.S. I first shared this post on Wishful Thinking Works in January of 2011 but enjoy sharing it again at this time of year.