Today we’re having a snow day. We’ve had snow for the last four days, almost unheard of in our part of the world. Here on Vancouver Island when it snows, people start circling the wagons and rationing their provisions. No telling when we’ll be able to get out to the store again! It can actually be pretty comical, until you do venture out on the road and get passed by some wingnut doing 110 while everyone else is doing a safe 70. With a “New Driver” sticker on their bumper. A black pickup truck, with license number BGM 1…sorry, I might be venting a bit…
What I mean to say is that, a snow day is a pretty special event for younger kids. It not only means a day off from school, completely different from a weekend day, but a chance to connect with nature in a very meaningful way. Because it doesn’t snow much on the Island, it becomes so much more significant when it does. Getting a day off from school to go out and play in the snow is a big deal when you’re pre-adolescent.
I grew up back east, where winter could sometimes encompass most of autumn and the better part of spring. We played hockey on outdoor rinks, our tiny feet frozen inside our skates. The change room was filled with sobbing children after a game, as their parents worked feverishly to un-lace those skates to free our frozen toes only just beginning to thaw out. That pain is something you never forget. When blood begins to flow again, and you want your toes to be numb again. I don’t think my children are ever going to experience that one.
I also remember wearing the toque that converted into a balaclava, completely covering your face, with eye holes that never seemed to line up properly. The fabric on my face would alternate between frost-covered and wet, tasting of wet wool, salty sweat, and snot. I always liked the feeling of ice-crusted eyebrows, but not the needle cold of the wind freezing my exposed forehead.
I remember being outside on cold winter nights and just standing under a street light, looking up at the fluffy cascade of snowflakes falling through the pale yellow wash of the light. The sound was like no other, that dry brushing hush of thousands of flakes touching lightly down on the already thick blanket. I remember one particular winter night when I and a group of friends were on a weekend Outing Club trip with our school. We were walking down a country road somewhere in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The snow was falling heavily, huge fluffy flakes filling the air so thickly it was impossible not to breathe them in. We stopped walking, the five of us, and just stood with our faces to the dark sky, letting the snow tickle our upturned faces. Without the hint of a breeze, the only sound was our breathing and the sound of the flakes touching down. It sounded faintly like a far off shower, barely discernible in the distance. I want my children to have those experiences. Just not for 6 months of the year.
We’ve had several snow days this year, which is considerably more than we usually have. We spent some time tubing and playing in the snow up at Mount Washington. That day was pretty incredible, because the snow fell thickly all day. And it felt like we had the mountain to ourselves. Our kids love the snow so much, they would be content for us to drive for an hour and a half just to roll around in the stuff. Which we have done before. If the snow won’t come to us, we’ll just have to go to the snow.
I think a snow day creates an opportunity for children to have a nature experience different from the everyday. They become more attuned to their senses, whether it’s the cold seeping through wet mittens, or the stark brightness of a snow-covered field, or the taste of frozen snow landing on outstretched tongues. Yesterday I had a snowball fight with my kids and the boy next door. When we were done and Beth-Rose and I came in for some hot chocolate, Zachary stayed outside lying in the snow, motionless. I watched him and wondered what was going through his mind. Did he hear the snow falling around and on him? Was he aware of the cold ground underneath him? Was he imagining himself on some great northern expedition, trying to reach the North Pole on foot? That was one of my snow day fantasies as a kid. I would build a snow fort and lie inside, imagining that I was hunkering down to wait out a terrible storm. Was Zachary imagining something similar?
Today the kids built a snow fort. It has a living room, two bedrooms with couches and beds. They were pretending they are at university, living on their own. They were at it for hours. Beth-Rose has come in because her feet are freezing, so they are both going out to the hot tub. I believe that going for a nice, leisurely soak in a hot tub, followed by a steamy, frothy hot chocolate, might just be a pretty good way to end a snow day. I hope they remember this day. These are good memories for kids to create. These are the moments to file away for later recollection, the good times they had as children. As their dad, it also makes a pretty good memory for me.
What’s your great snow day memory? Did you have snow days where you grew up? Did you even have snow? I’d love to hear about your experiences growing up, so please leave a comment below.
In Newfoundland we get plenty of snow days. I muse to myself sometimes the affects it may have on the completeness of education in this province.
Today, Tuesday, as I read your post, I lay in bed at 10:00 am on yet another snow day. Actually more of a blizzard day: 40-60 cm of snow expected, wind gusts 80-100 kmh. Businesses are closed, schools, bus service not operating, even snowplows are not working is some areas citing safety concerns. Only essential services are out in this. Including my dear wife who has to work tonight at the shelter.
SNOWDAYS ARE THE BEST!!!!!!!!!! I love snow as much as I love the sun! And of course you’re wrong about us not wanting to experience the snow for 6 months, OF COURSE WE DO!!!!! And when I was laying down, I was kinda meditating cause I wasn’t really thinking about anything… Ok! Maybe I was thinking about how beautiful the snow falling down from the sky! Haaaaaah! I love snow!
I’m sure you’d love to experience it for 6 months. Been there, done that. And I mean done! Thanks Zachary!
Talk about memories of snow days and winter! Growing up in Scotland it seemed as a child like 11 months of winter and one really bad month.
The real snows and cold normally came end November and lasted ’till March/April.
The greatest game at school was during morning break to get an ice slide going on the black top in the school yard as long as we could make it. After we’d gone back into class, unbeknownst to us the school janitor came out with his bucket of salt and seemed to take sheer delight in salting our slide. Distorted childhood memory was that he was 6′ tall (a bearded hairy giant) wore coveralls and a fedora, who seemed to have a perverse delight in spoiling children’s fun.
One day at lunch recess he caught me and 3 of my friends trying to get another slide going. He collared me by the scruff of the neck lifted me off my feet and shook me uttering the words ” you come from no good, you are no good, and never will be any good” 6 years old and already I had been condemned for life?
Sledging with my brothers and sisters was the other big “thing”. Evening was best, especially with a full moon. No light pollution so it seemed like daylight.
There were 7 kids in my family and we were extremely poor, although we didn’t know that. Everyone
from the village were in the same boat. Standard wear was “wellies”, duffel jacket with hood, wooden toggles for buttons, and old socks for gloves. Eventually, soaked through and shivering we’d head for home dragging our one and only trusted sledge with us.
Getting home we’d take off our sodden outer wear, pull off and empty our soggy wellies then stuff them with newspapers placing them in a neat row by the kitchen back door. The aroma of all the drying wellies could have peeled wallpaper.
We’d all sit around the sawdust burner in the kitchen. My father would then always prepare his famous “corpse reviver” as he called it. Each sibling got a huge steaming mug of an OXO BOILLIE (an OXO cube dissolved in boiling water) seasoned with white pepper and a tablespoon of HP sauce completed with 2 slice of bread for “dunking and dipping” .
As my brothers and I grew up (12-13) the biggest “expedition” was to sneak out late at night down to the river which ran past the farm.. Under full moonlight it looked like a magical landscape to us. With week after week of minus 15 – 20 C the river was frozen solid. Slipping and sliding we would walk up river to where various creeks entered the river with large waterfalls which also froze. The game then was to find and break the massive icicles. The next part which was highly illegal, was to try and find salmon which had stopped to rest on the pebble bottom in the shallow rapids on their way upstream to spawn, and had become trapped by their dorsal fins in the ice at the shallow edges of the deeper pools. To find such a treasure meant’ fine dining for the family for a couple of days. We never knew what the penalty was for being caught, but we knew it was severe.
We would pray for snow days, hoping the school bus wouldn’t make it to the village. We never seemed to remember that no school meant’ extra chores on the farm. Still, anything was better than school !
Great memories! Our after sled drink was often Ovaltine. Still have a vivid memory of the taste! Not my favourite, though I think I’d prefer it over an Oxo cube in boiling water! Thanks for the comment!