Taking a break for the no-school storms

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 1/27/10]

The snow day. As a child was there anything more glorious?

“You mean they closed school so we can go sledding?!”

I can still remember those anxious nights before — watching the late forecast on TV, charting the movement of green and pink blobs across the maps and convincing myself that this was the “Big One.”

Though, more often than not, it wasn’t.

It was a first glimpse into the fallibility of the adult world and the realization — before even Santa and the Tooth Fairy — that magic might not be real. Meteorologists were not wizards or seers of a certain future.

Realizing that the experts were no help, I began making my own observations. It was all about the timing, I discovered.

If there was snow in the forecast, you never wanted to see it start before you went to bed. To optimize potential for a snow day, it needed to start at around 4 a.m. That way the municipal plows would have no time to get the roads clear by the start of the morning commute.

The mornings following a storm were even more fraught with anxiety and uncertainty; especially, when waking up to five to eight inches — that inconclusive amount where a glance out the window left more questions than answers.

The snowfall, then, came under close scrutiny: Is it light? Heavy? Wet? Are there drifts? When did it start? Have they plowed yet?

“Well, it doesn’t look too bad,” my mother would say, trying not to build false hope.

Mary Lamson of West Rutland also remembers those mornings well: “The anticipation of the snow day; huddled in front of the tiny TV in my kitchen wrapped in a blanket, watching the closed school names scroll across the bottom of the screen during the morning news program, waiting for my school to appear the anticipation of freedom.”

Asking around for people’s reflections on snow days as usual yielded a variety of responses.

Fortunately, Rutlander Sean Fahey provided the quintessential old timer “When I was your age” response stating: “There were no snow days when I was in school. We attended elementary schools in our own neighborhoods, which we walked to.”

Sean is a few years my senior, but I also recall far fewer snow days.

While I grew up in Mendon, a town prone to many snow days, my parents had chosen to send me to Christ the King School. CKS always followed the Rutland school’s lead on snow days, despite the fact that many of its students came from outlying areas.

This meant, that when Barstow enjoyed its numerous snow days and two-hour delays, I had to suit up in my CKS Smurf uniform and schlep on in.

My mother would always remind me that Barstow still had to make up those days at the end of the year, resulting often in them getting out of school a week later than me.

True enough, but cold comfort as I drove by my neighbor building a snow fort while I was being carted off to do fractions for the day.

Indeed, at CKS, it seemed like the Second Coming was more likely to occur before a snow day. But when word did come down (from Rome, I believe) that we would be granted a day off, it made it all the more important, all the more reason to get outside and make the most of the day.

“Snow days used to generally mean building snow forts and such with the neighborhood kids,” Rutland Town native Tim Williamson said. “And the inevitable snow ball fights that ensued … Ah, the good ol’ days.”

Those memories are great, but as you get older, the arrival of a midweek snowstorm elicits more frustration than delight.

“I used to love snow days just like every kid, but I must admit I have become ornery in my old age,” Rutlander Joanna Young said.

“I still get snow days,” gloated Ashleigh Sanborn, an area high school teacher. “When I get that call, I still get so excited,that I can’t fall back asleep.”

Teachers aside, the rest of us adults don’t usually get snow days.

No, for the rest of us, waking up to a fresh snowfall means shoveling, cleaning off our cars and trudging into work on slick roads cluttered with typically inept drivers.

For working parents like Young, a snow day can throw your daily schedule into disarray. “I am self-employed and a grad student between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.,” she said. “That 5:30 a.m. call tells me I must be mom all day regardless of whether I have a deadline, client or paper.”

Of course, there are the big exceptions — the “Snowmageddons” that force all of use to take a snow day whether we like it or not. However, Vermonters are little more rugged than, say, Manhattanites or Pennsylvanians (except for Gov. Rendell).

Keeping that Subaru parked in the driveway is almost impossible. A pile of snow of snow is a challenge not an impasse.

We talk tires and all-wheel-drives; we pride ourselves on our vehicle’s ability to get through snow, and we laugh at the flatlanders who, despite their hulking SUVs, can’t.

But on those days when Mother Nature tells us to stay home, we have little other choice than to sleep in, take a break from our schedule and, maybe, get outside to reconnect with those great memories of snow days past.

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