Friday, February 19, 2010

Snow Days

A few nights ago on the news, the reporter said there had been snow in forty-nine states, with Hawaii being the only exception. I know that many of my friends have been shoveling most of the winter, with snowfalls of two to three feet burying not only lawns, but decks, cars, and shrubs. But in my little corner of Vermont we have only had one significant snowfall, and for most of the winter we've had bare, or nearly bare, ground. For the most part, temperatures, too, have been unseasonably mild...not like when I was growing up.

It seems to me, that when I was a child, we had to really bundle up all winter--thermal underwear, flannel shirts, winter weight slacks or woolen skirts, thick tights and knee-high socks, heavy sweaters, wool jackets or coats, warm woolen mittens, scarves, hats, and fleece-lined boots. It took so long to get ready to go out that we didn't have much time to play before an early dusk, and we were called in for supper.

I remember hiking up the hill to school, sometimes knee-deep in snow because the sidewalks hadn't yet been cleared, arriving at my classroom with numb, red cheeks and nose, and mittens, snowpants, and boots caked with snow. There were times when we had so much snow during the morning that school was canceled in the afternoon and we were sent home to enjoy our unexpected half-holiday sledding or building snow forts and having snowball fights with friends, or building snowmen. Mothers listened to local radio stations while preparing breakfast, waiting for those fateful school cancellations, that meant their plans for the day would be altered because the kids would be staying home. Children also listened to the radio while getting ready for school, hoping to hear the announcement of liberation before they headed out the door. No matter what the conditions, my father would always tell us that we "had it easy," not like when he was a boy. "We didn't have snow days," he'd say, then launch into one of his stories about walking for miles in blizzard conditions to get an education.

Several years ago, while taking a writing course online, my father's tales and a winter photograph inspired the following poem. I want to dedicate this to my friends who have had more than their share of snow days this winter, and to those of us who wish we had at least one or two.

Do you have a favorite "snow days" memory? Please share it in the comments section.


Gray-limbed skeletons bow and sway
While verdant maidens curtsy in the wind.
Cherry-red barns with powdered sugar roofs
And lemon-meringue windows wait to welcome
Plaid-clad farmers come to milk rust-brown cows.
Across the street, the white-robed church
Points a gray, bony finger toward a steel blue sky.

Golden pancakes, gilded with butter,
Line up to be baptized in maple syrup.
Clouds of whipped cream
Swim in mud-brown lakes of cocoa.
Bacon snaps and crackles in the black-backed skillet
Of scrambled eggs and homefries.

Chairs scrape, voices blend in a medley
Of "good morning," "pass the potatoes,"
And "Thank You, God, for food to eat..."
Bob clicks on the radio, a voice crackles--
"Because of the snow, no school today..."
And the rest is drowned in loud hurrahs
As mother groans, and father says, again,
"When I was a boy, we didn't have snow days."

--Donna B. Russell
© March 13, 2005