The Perfect Day . . .

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Did you grow up where the winters are frigid, the snow falls sideways, and the local weather forecasters’ voices rise in excitement when they discuss the next storm?

If not, I pity you. Really—you just don’t know about the perfect day.

Ask anyone who was once a 10-year-old in the northern United States—the absolute perfect day is a snow day.

The uninitiated may not even know the concept. A snow day, my friends, is a day when you thought you had to go to school, take the math quiz, hand in your spelling homework, and eat congealed Spanish rice in the cafeteria, but, instead . . . you get to stay home!

Snow days are free days. Days that come out of nowhere, where all the normal rules are suspended.

No school. No backpack full of books, no standing in sub-zero temps, waiting for the school bus to come.

A day full of empty hours to fill with laziness, with daytime TV, a foray outside to make snow angels, hot chocolate waiting when you get back in. Maybe your mom turns on the oven—it helps keep the house warm, after all—and bakes cookies.

The decision about when to declare a snow day was always made by a grownup and grownups, it seems, are hesitant to give in to the weather. Have they forgotten how happy a snow day made them, all those years ago, when they were little?

When I was a kid, the grownup who made the snow day decisions for our rural school district was none other than  . . . my father. He was the head bus driver and business manager of the school, and we lived as far from the school as anyone in the district. We also lived way up on a hill. The feeling was that, if Don Sanger could make it to school, anyone else could.

And Don Sanger always thought he could make it to school. He was not one to let a few feet of snow slow him down!

It was a heavy burden to bear. My sister and I would plead and beg for him to call a snow day. He’d go out to check the conditions and we would wait, hardly breathing, for him to come back, even though we knew what he was going to say.

No big deal. No snow day needed.

Then we’d all manage to get to school and our friends would harass us . . . why couldn’t we have convinced out father to be more reasonable, to give us kids a perfect day?

It seems that schools are much more likely to bow to the weather these days, much more willing to err on the side of safety and tell people to stay home. I wonder if the kids appreciate snow days as much as we did, when they get so many of them?

The funny thing is that, once you’ve known the joy of snow days, that feeling seems never to leave you.

I’ve been retired, lo, these many years and, thinking logically, every day is a snow day now. My days are always my own. I never have to eat cafeteria Spanish rice again. Snow days should have no meaning for me.

But then comes a day like today, where all the local schools have cancelled classes because it snowed and the winds are going to gust 40 miles an hour, and the windchill factor is going to be something like 40-below-zero Fahrenheit.

In my heart, this is still the perfect day. I have an ironclad excuse not to go anywhere, not to the post office, not to the assisted living center where my mom lives, not to the store, or the dump.

And, in staying home, I will feel free, even freer than usual, to do *exactly* as I please. The “shoulds” of vacuuming or listing new items on Etsy will be put aside because it’s a snow day! I’ll read for pleasure, I’ll nap, I’ll turn my hands to whatever I choose at the moment.

Maybe we’ll go out and shovel snow. Maybe we’ll come in to hot chocolate. Maybe I’ll turn on the oven and bake cookies . . . it’ll help keep the house warm, after all.

Don Sanger’s little girl loves a snow day . . .

103 thoughts on “The Perfect Day . . .

  1. Snow days are great. They are even rarer in Christchurch, but we love them whenever they come. Your father would be appalled to know how easily we succumb to snow. 😀 Today it’s a rain day. I am loving that too. Hope the cookies were made.

  2. Like a “get out of jail free” card. Alas, as adults we’re stuck with the digging out aftermath of snow days. In NE Ohio there are now cold temperature days in addition to snow days.

  3. I love this post, and you must have enjoyed writing it. Thank you for sharing so I could enjoy the smile, the chuckle, and the goosebumps. What a great family memory. 🙂 I went to school in midstate NY and rode a city bus to high school. I remember one time during a snowstorm the driver stopped the bus kind of close to the curb and told us all to get off because he couldn’t go any further because of the depth of the snow in the road. There I was with my pleated wool skirt uniform on and I literally just kept pushing my feet forward for numerous blocks to get home. Makes me chuckle today, but it wasn’t that funny then – it was scary. Today in SC, it is in the 20’s, icy conditions on the roads, and they’ve had to call out the National Guard because they are not equipped to handle these type of conditions. We’ll be calling a second snow day today. 🙂

  4. When I was a child snow days were few and far between. And they were something special…just as you describe. But back then I didn’t have to shovel snow in sub zero temperatures or worry if my car will start or not. You know I hate winter.

    The temperatures next week are forecasted to get up into the 30s. I can’t wait.

  5. How delightful! Took me back to my childhood … and those snow days were very special. This post was wonderful with my coffee . Thanks, Kerry!

  6. I never got a snow day. Oh we had six foot snowdrifts but the bus always made it, Now they scive off with a 1/4 inch snow. No wonder the older generation despairs of the adults of today who can’t possibly travel 2 miles to school. I was genuinely shocked when my son was sent home from school because the teachers couldn’t get there. I certainly made it to work 25 miles away but they couldn’t.
    BUT, when we came home, the joy of changing into your old clothes and grabbing an hours worth of sledging was just so good, and the weekends were wonderful.
    Enjoy your snow day and the hot chocolate.

    • You never had a snow day? That’s just wrong! You’re right that the kids now get them *much* more frequently–I think it’s because the parents would raise such hell if their kids got cold or wet.

      • I’m thinking it’s more the likelihood of legal action that tips the balance these days rather than whether or not reaching the school is possible. Just as it was with your dad; it used to be considered a challenge to “stand up to Mother Nature” and “conquer the elements”; )

  7. What a wonderful post! There is something precious about a day where the hours are yours and there is no pressure to do anything but be. We should take off more days like this, even when it doesn’t snow.

  8. Great post, great topic. Thank you for reminding me of my school days. I grew up in New Jersey and we had several snow days each year because of the nor’easter storms. I loved them. Just the excitement of hearing our school closing over the radio was an exhilaration! Thank you for the memories!

  9. This is so utterly charming Kerry, thank you! I know exactly the feeling you are describing. We rarely get sufficient levels of snow in the UK for a snow day. But I cannot tell you the joy I feel if a meeting/engagement etc gets cancelled, leaving me with an unexpectedly free day – that marvellous sense of freedom, of lost time newly gained. It can’t be beaten! 🙂

  10. Like you, I still get that “Snow Day!” feeling and enjoy “an ironclad excuse not to go anywhere.” I can light ice lanterns, maybe make banana bread, maybe not. When I was a child, winter, even in downstate New York, was a big deal. Roads didn’t get cleared fast. Trying to have school in spite of snow was not fun. I still recall how my five-year-old best friend was left by the school bus at the end of her her long back road to find her way home, crying.

    • Other commenters have similar stories and it’s interesting how times have changed. It would be *unthinkable* now for a child to be left like that! And, yet, we all just soldiered on . . .

    • Don Sanger would find much to annoy him, were he alive today! My step daughter is a teacher in Virginia and I am always amazed at how often they get snow days! We were made of hardier stock . . .

  11. I spent my childhood in London so didn’t see much snow but my husband went to school in the Peak District in Derbyshire and did have the occasional snow day. Where we are now, in the French Pyrenees, snow days are more common though I must admit I prefer it when I can see the snowy mountain peaks from my window but the white stuff doesn’t actually sit outside my front door. However, if all my family are home, the cupboards are stocked and none of us have to drive anywhere it can snow as much as it likes and, when that happens, I know just what you mean by a ‘snow day feeling’.

    • You’re right –the key to really enjoying a snow day is that underlying sense of safety and security. One mustn’t have anything to worry about, in order to fully live a snow day.

  12. Love this post! The closest we got to snow yesterday in Nashville was a 20-minute swirl of glitter snow – a magical and mysterious comibination of 10-degree temperatures, bright blue sky, and snowflakes. When they fell from the sky, they reflected the sun making the whole neighborhood look like a shimmery glitter globe. It definitely wasn’t your winter wonderland but for an eternal snow lover, it was at least something! Glad you had such a cozy snow day!

      • Lucky you! Come February, when it generally warms up to the highs 60’s in the South, and the first sprigs of Spring start popping out, I always feel so fortunate to live in a state with an early season change while the rest of the country is still grappling with snow and ice. But during the holiday season, when nostalgia for my snow-filled childhood sets in heavy, if I could pick and choose, it would be a mountain of snow from November to January for me. If only Lady Nature were that easy to work with with:)

  13. Not many snow days in coastal Virginia. 😦 However….we got two: yesterday and today! Yippee! You should see the kids with cardboard boxes, cookie sheets and whatever else they can find that’ll slide. We don’t have the hills for sledding (or sleds), LOL. But necessity is the mother of invention so they say. Some sneak onto Mount Trashmore – which is forbidden- and others slide down road embankments – not sure that’s safe either. But, regardless, we are having a wonderful time off. ~Joanne

    • Kids always come up with a way to slide on the snow! I remember three of us on a sled going down a hill in our farmyard. It was dusk and my cousin and I saw that we were going to hit a farm wagon just in time to duck. My sister, at the back, was less lucky and still has a scar over her eye! I hope VA is getting warmer by now!

  14. great post, all these years later – great memories. Brought up in Northern B. C. Canada, I walked the couple miles to school, through the drifts and the mountains of dirty snow the plows built up. We didn’t have backpacks or cafeterias in my early school days. I took my lunch in a metal lunch box and used it like a sled to ride down the hills, my thermos of hot chocolate was frequently broken and the sandwiches were soggy. I struggled to school one day only to find the janitor and I were the only ones there, I hung out in the furnace room and ate my lunch with Mr. Best, then he drove me to my parents store. How times have changed.

    • What great memories of a very different time. None of that could happen today–we are so protective now. I sort of glad I grew up in a wilder, less supervised era (and lived to tell the tale!)

  15. How great to see your enthusiasm for snow days! Reading this, I got quite envious as I live in a location that got “just a normal amount” of snow in my childhood. Nowadays we’re lucky to get any snow at all.
    We did get “heat days” in summer when it got too hot but I can count on one hand how often that happened.
    Guess I’ll have to live vicariously through your snow pics and stories!

  16. What a great story and feeling! I also love a snow day! I have a boss who skis, wouldn’t you think he would want one? But no. Sent us home mid day yesterday but called us in today. I did enjoy my afternoon yesterday, though, watching the wind toss the flakes around as I sipped hot chocolate. 😀

  17. I grew up in central Illinois, and we had a snow day or two most every year. But if there were *too many* snow days, we’d have school for more days into June. That wasn’t a trade-off anyone wanted! I walked to school for all but a couple of years. It was about a mile and a half in grade school and just a few blocks in high school. Cold and snow was just part of the package.

    • We took a bus but weren’t allowed to stay in the house and make the driver wait. So we stood out there, by the mailbox, and waited . . . for what seemed like hours. Now parents drive their kids to the end of the driveway and keep them in the heated cars until the bus pulls up. And I, too, remember having to “make up” snow days in June. I still think it was worth it, for those special days in the winter.

      • Around here (on the top-side of Lake Ontario) there are still some farms (y’know, the ones with really L O N G lanes) that have those little telephone-booth-sized sheds out by the road to give a bit of shelter while waiting for the bus. (Even now, farm kids are made of sterner stuff; )

  18. Oh YES! Nothing better than a snow day being called! All the kids here were sad, because our wicked cold came during vacation instead of on the first day of school. 😄
    Hot cocoa, popcorn and some old movie or a favorite book, makes me smile!

  19. My “recent” snow day memories are not so happy, though I do remember the childhood ones… I taught second grade in a private school many years ago. In the wee hours, the headmaster would call me and then I would call my room mothers who would then call the rest of the moms. Invariably someone would call me to double check… No going back to bed and sleeping, like when I was a kid. One snowy day I did not get a call and could not believe we were having school! I spent two hours trying to get there, taking scary side roads when the main ones were blocked. When I finally arrived at school, only the secretary and headmaster were there. “Oh – did I forget to call you?” he asked. “Huh,” I replied though there were nastier words I wanted to say. “And how did all my second graders know not to come?” I wondered aloud. He sinply smiled. That was my last year of teaching. The headmaster hated me and did everything he could for 2 years to make me quit…
    And by the way, I used to make fudge! Such a treat! And I’d go scoop up snow and ball it up and pour juice over it…

    • I’m glad you have those fine memories! Isn’t it funny that, on days when the weather was so bad they canceled school, all we wanted to do was be outside in that very awful weather?!

  20. It never snows here, so snow always has a romantic image in my mind. All these stories have just reinforced that! Please tell me that you still make snow angels!
    Our extreme weather comes at the hot end (going to be in the mid-40°C today), and it often comes in holiday time. However, it does get hot during term time (February) but kids still go to school. Hats, sunscreen, shade, water are the mantra; and it is too hot to do anything!

  21. Oh yes, the glory of a snow day! I did not grow up in such a place but having lived in Ottawa now for 37 years and raised kids here, I know the joy of a snow day. What an evocative post, Kerry! I can imagine the breathless anticipation as your father goes out to test the weather and then having to go to school and face your friends.

    • I know some parents are ambivalent about snow days–a free day for kids usually means complications for parents, especially if they are expected to go to work. But when a parent can get into the swing of things, that must be the best of all possible worlds!

  22. I need to write a friend who grew up in Canada (and now lives in warmer regions of the USA) to ask him whether this winter weather is a reason we don’t all live in Canada. Growing up in sunny California, we did not know about such events (we just got to get out of the math quiz, when we had an earthquake and had to hide under our desks for a few minutes, then go to the play ground – lined up, no playing – until the building we cleared to return to class. -Oscar

  23. I don’t remember ever having a snow day either but in this litigious society, it’s better to be safe than sorry. When we get bad road conditions here which is mostly black ice on rare occasion covered with a bit of snow, they shut down our city and my daughter works from home. We watched city buses slide sideways into poles and it took 3 hours to get 20 miles. Just give me lots of rain and I’m good. I’ll bet you dad never slid off the road.

    • My father *never* slid off the road–he was a great driver, and fearless. In fact, when we were learning to drive, he took us to big empty parking lots and instructed us to slam on the brakes, to force a spinout, just so we would know what to expect and how to handle it. I might be a little cocky about my winter driving skills . . . but ice? That’s the worst!

    • Used to love going out to photograph the crystalline beauty of a freezing rain storm – as the day afterward almost always had stunningly beautiful sunshine – but these days, after some terrifying incidents that went on for days (and farther east in some places of Ontario & Quebec it lasted for weeks): I absolutely HATE it (& black ice)!

  24. Loved this post, it took me back to the winters of my childhood when we used to get ‘proper snow’, these days we rarely even get a covering! I loved snow days, or even half a snow day as half the school lived the other side of a steep hill, so if bad snow was anticipated we could go home at lunchtime 🙂

    • They do those half days here, too, and sometimes have a “delayed start,” to give road crews a chance to get out and clean things up. Not as good as a whole snow day but better than nothing!

  25. I love your excitement, Kerry. I kept picturing our own winter days in Ontario, Canada. I remember my dad coming to bring us home early, as a snow storm was about to hit. Funny that they sent us all to school that day, only to collect us a few hours later. I can remember walking to school with a frigid wind on my face. We would take turns walking backward to ease the pain of the icy wind.

    Your dad took his responsibility seriously. That must have been tough.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed your hot chocolate, baked cookies, and the sheer pleasure of giving yourself permission to enjoy a snow day to its fullest.

    • I wonder if weather forecasting has improved and that’s why schools seem to be cancelling early now–we always had to wait by the radio in the morning but now they often cancel the night before. But, yes, that frigid wind on the face, sucking the air right out of the lungs . . . I think I need a hot chocolate!

  26. You captured the snow day feeling perfectly. When we were waiting for this latest storm, with ominous skies and a still feeling in the air, my husband commented on how the wonderful anticipation for the storm reminded him of hoping for a snow day when we were kids. What a feeling–freedom and snow to play in. And the best, after playing in the snow, was coming in to a warm house and curling up with a good book. It’s still a pleasure to savor.

  27. Nicely written – and thought-provoking. I thought I had time-travelled back to 2014 when I realised I was reading your posts from then. Not sure how that happened, but they were jolly good anyway 🙂

    • Thanks! I did wonder how you got back that far but, hey, some of those old posts are my favorites! By the way, I have been having trouble commenting on your blog. I think I’ve figured out that it happens when a post shows up in my reader so I need to learn to take the extra steps to click on the Home link and go from there. But that’s why I’ve been quiet, even though I’ve been reading and enjoying!

  28. Kerry, you’ve managed to capture the snow day!
    Oh, how we loved them.
    What a hoot that it was your father making the decision 🙂
    Happy New Year!

  29. I always love your posts, no matter the subject, I always want to read more! If it was up to me to declare a day a snow day, we would have a snow day each day a single flake was spotted. Those days should be spend with hot chocolate, cookies and reading, I think 🙂

    • What a nice thing to say, Marieken–you’ve been such a loyal reader for so long! If we had a snow day every day there was a snowflake, though, the kids here would never go to school!

  30. Oh yes, you’ve brought back such great memories and I couldn’t agree more; having a Snow Day (still!: ) gives a feeling of freedom like nothing else; but, having said that, this winter truly is throwing more at us than any I can think of in DECADES! ):

  31. And now I see from a December post that you are on Lake Champlain (straight south of Montréal?) so may also have experienced (or at least remember) that ice storm I just mentioned? It was scary enough here, a few hours west, but much worse down that way…

  32. Pingback: It’s A Pity . . . | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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