5 minute read

Musings from the Middle: Bring on the Snow

by Cathy Allie

I have survived the first set of snow days of the year, just barely. My wooden floors have taken a beating from the salt dripping from our boots and shoes, my coat closet looks like a hurricane rather than snow hit it, from the search for matching gloves and hats, and my hot chocolate and marshmallow supplies have been nearly depleted. But none of this really bothers me.

The problem that has me all bent out of shape, is that I no longer get to be a snow day participant. Let me explain.

I grew up in north Missouri, Michigan and Kentucky, where we had a lot of snow days--- in north Missouri and Michigan, because it actually regularly snows large amounts, and in Kentucky, because a flake or two can shut down a town for a week. And I loved snow days.

I had a ritual to make them happen. At the first talk of a predicted storm, my sister and I knelt at our bedside and implored God to grant us a snow day. God heard from me a lot in those days, usually more along the lines of giving me a different sister, but on snow days, she and I were united.

Next, I did a snow dance. I read about it in a book as a really young kid, and I tried it once to really great results. Therefore, I did it again and again. If the dance failed to bring snow, I assumed I had done one part wrong, never considering the prognosticators had just messed up the forecast.

On a side-note, one of life’s great mysteries (besides what makes Kentucky Fried Chicken so good), is how we can put people on the moon and transplant organs and clone dogs and turn grapes into wine, but we cannot accurately predict snow fall. I digress. We laid out of sledding clothes, waxed the runners of our sleds with candles and waxed paper, and slept fitfully until morning, racing to the window to check out the snowfall. We choked down sugary cereal (who knew then it was so bad for you?), begged our mom to let us head out, and bundled up, bread wrapper sacks with rubber bands around our feet (true story) tucked into our boots.

In Kentucky, we lived on a golf course, one whose superintendent of grounds apparently headed to Florida for the winter, as he sure wasn’t around as we rode every undulating hill all over that acreage. We filched cardboard and actual boards from the garage to build ramps, used trash can lids as saucers, rode sleds backwards, bottomed out in ravines, ran over each other with our maniacal steering, and basically defied gravity for hours on end.

I thought my mom was the coolest, because she never seemed worried about how long we would be outside and it wasn’t until I myself was a mom that I realized she probably loved the peace and quiet of having the house to herself, relishing a second cup of Sanka coffee with a piece of oven toast slathered in peach preserves.

Hot chocolate in those days was epic, a concoction of real whole milk, heated in a pan with Nestle Quick or baking chocolate and real sugar added, and after about eight hours in the snow, it really hit the spot. Every once in a while mom scalded the milk and a lovely white scum would rise to the top of the pan, but it didn’t bother us.

Then for many years I was an educator. After the late night or early morning call to cancel school from our calling tree—no fancy apps or robo calls back then—I would fall back asleep with no alarm and no real plan at all for the next 24 hours.

Snow days became reading and television watching days; days filled with phone calls to fellow teachers to predict whether we would get back to back days. Even though I knew we would probably be in school in June making up time, snow days were welcome reprieves.

Fast forward to today and my first world problem….when everybody else in my family gets a snow day, I still have to work. And frankly, it irritates me. I turn into a diabolical schemer, intent on ruining their fun.

I play upon my husband’s sympathies and ask him to drive me to work, thus ensuring he will not be able to sleep in too late.

If I drive myself to work, I will call about a half hour in to my day pretending that I have possibly forgotten to put the garage door down, so hubby will need to go check, which means the dog will now be wide awake and need a trip outdoors into the cold, with hubby in pajama bottoms and parka right there with him, now himself really wide awake from the arctic air.

I sneakily plant the seed with my daughter when I kiss her goodbye that maybe we could have a pizza lunch if she and her dad come pick me up midday, guaranteeing then, that nothing in our well-stocked pantry will satisfy her with the thought of hot pizza on the brain.

I leave them a list of things they could help me with, just the gentlest of reminders that I will be at work while things at home still need to be done.

“If you want to do a load or two of laundry while I am at work, I wouldn’t have to do it when I get home, so maybe I would have time to play cards or a game,” I say, fully ignoring the fact that they will have all day to play cards or a game.

“This would be a good day to go through your closet and try on some clothes,” I tell my daughter. “Maybe if you find some things that don’t fit, we can shop for some new clothes over the weekend.”

This technique is a cinch to derail their day, because I know from experience she will pull all her clothes out of her closet instead of one garment at a time, and she will get sidetracked when she finds some book or art pad on the floor of the closet.

She will start reading or sketching, at which point her dad will come into the clothes mess and make her clean it all up, for fear of my reaction when I get home. Guilt is a pretty strong motivator.

If they haven’t fallen for the pizza trap, I will call close to lunch ‘just to check in’ and ask what they have been doing. I sigh into the phone and say, “Well, it sounds like fun. Wish I was there! Hey, remember if you guys get a chance, the vacuum probably should be run in the front room,” just the gentlest of reminders I am at work and cannot do it.

Texting has been great for my Poor Pitiful Me campaigns as well. ‘Whatcha doin’?’ I text my daughter, who I am certain will have her phone in her hand since I am not there to make her put it down.

‘Tryin’ to get dad to go sledding,’ she texts back, including seven to ten emojis of mittens, a snowman, snowflake, icicle, and the inevitable smiling poop guy. I roll my eyes at her quick emoji seek and find, as this the same kid who has a social studies research project from September still due. ‘Already done with all the stuff I left you to do?’ I type. She replies with a GIF of Cinderella scrubbing the floor, and of course, the poop emoji guy again. Smarty pants!

Around 3:00 I have joined the influencers at work, who are trying to convince our bosses that letting us leave early will help us avoid the rush hour traffic. At 3:30 they relent, and I head home.

When I burst through the door and yell out a greeting, exhausted by now from thinking hatefully about them enjoying themselves all snow day long, they are nowhere to be found.

Then I hear it. Laughter from the backyard. I peek out the window at the two of them and a neighbor girl, building up a gnarly looking snow ramp; sleek, brightly colored snow saucers off to the side awaiting their next trip. They have on terribly mismatched clothes, their hats are askew, and their cheeks are comically rosy.

My Grinchy snow day heart melts with memories and mushy stuff, and I head to the stove top to make them some hot chocolate for when they finally come inside. This time I try really hard not to scald the milk.

Cathy is a retired public school Englishteacher and Public Information Officer.