Open Mic
3:08 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Snow Days

I remember so fondly the snow days from my North Carolina childhood. Peeking out the window expectantly, devouring the AM radio cancelation list, scrambling into gloves and hats and boots.

There were forts to be fashioned, snowmen to be birthed, hills to be sledded.  I remember, too, when my thrill of snow was put on ice.

Hear Christina Nifong read her essay.

After college, I found myself in Boston. Home to an average of 42 inches of snow a year. A blizzard there barely slows the pace. Dig out your car. Cross-country ski to work. That became one of my primary reasons for wanting to leave the Northeast: its inability to savor a proper snow day.

Seven years ago my family and I moved to Roanoke, a place registering on the snowday-ometer somewhere between the slushiness of my childhood and the frostiness of Boston.

I now have kids of my own, three of them, so I get snow days, but I do not pray for them. Every snow prediction leads to me hovering over the computer, a mix of this-could- be-fun and oh-no-not-again. I scroll tentatively: Radford. Roanoke Catholic. Sigh. Roanoke City. Well. There goes my day, canceled too.

Of course snow days are ultimately about safety. But keeping buses off slippery roads creates a phenomenon that is becoming rarer and rarer in today’s house-to-car-to-work bubble: a collective appreciation of nature.

When snow falls and school, and by extension work, is canceled, we stop. And watch the delicate flakes drift down. We take note of the quietness and the brightness. We step outside. We feel cold. We scoop and slide and crunch and connect. Is there another time when we are so in tune with the world outside our windows?

Snow tugs us outdoors, too, because it is so obviously fleeting. Hours after the world has been frosted like a wedding cake, plows push it all into grey piles. A warm-up of a few degrees renders the lacy, the miraculous, nothing more than a puddle.

The thing is, all of nature is short-lived. The bursting forth of the forest’s fiddleheads. The breaking open of the robins’ blue shells. The delicate uncurling of a zucchini flower. So often, because no one is worried for our safety, we miss it.

Maybe we should institute the creation of Spring Fever Days and Crisp Fall Days. I’d see the weather predictions of 75 and sunny and I’d tell the kids: Tomorrow there might not be school. I’d wake up early, check the computer and ... Yes! They have canceled school because it’s one of the first beautiful days of spring. Slip on your shorts and sandals. We’re going to wade in a creek, catch tadpoles, discover wild flowers.

Okay. You’re right. That’s probably not going to happen. But I’ve still got more winter left this year. So snow? Bring it on. Me and the kids, we’ve got some sledding to do.