T was already in the shower at 5 AM when the phone rang with the message that the school where he teaches was proclaiming a SNOW DAY. I announced the news and he stuck his wet head out of the shower curtain bellowing “WHOO HOO!”
No matter what your age, in Minnesota we all have the same response to a good old fashioned Snow Day. If you aren’t from around here, let me describe this phenomenon to you. A Snow Day is an official declaration of a snowfall so deep, so heavy, so wonderful that the buses cannot push through it and a free day, an unexpected vacation, is bestowed upon every kid within the vicinity of the blizzard or storm (except for those suckers in the districts that stay open. Woe to those kids living in the inner city where the schools never seem to close.). A Snow Day is not the same things as a pathetic two hour delay (why bother?), not a “buses will be delayed but we expect to start on time,” but an ENTIRE DAY.
We learned whether or our school was out by listening to the radio or, in more recent years, watching local television. Every Mom and Dad listened to WCCO. The “Old Person Station” I called it. But they had the Snow Day list before any other station, so we accepted Boone and Erickson’s slow articulation of the endless alphabetical lineup of closings and delays. Patiently we’d wait to hear the name of our school, and once reported we’d let out the same “WHOO HOO” I heard from T just this morning.
This particular Snow Day ritual makes it impossible to go back to bed once a Snow Day is declared. Your nerves are rattled, your voice is hoarse from screaming with joy, and the fresh snow beckons. Nowadays kids can Google the info or have it texted directly to their iPhones. I wonder if the delayed gratification of waiting to hear your school name makes news of a Snow Day more exciting, or if the rarity of the event these days is plenty enough to wake modern kids into a snow-induced frenzy.
Regardless of how you receive the news, Snow Days are Rites of Passage in the Midwest. Kids spend the morning shoveling and the afternoon harnessed to sleds and skates and skis. The day typically include mugs of cheap hot chocolate (Swiss Miss anyone?) unless your older siblings dabble in cookery and can make real hot chocolate which pairs so perfectly with buttery biscuits and afternoon conversation.
There is no single best thing about Snow Days: the ritual of waiting to hear your school announced, the luxury of a surprise vacation, the hard work and play, the comfort of hot chocolate, and the camaraderie that comes with it. Rosy cheeks and snow burned skin, the odor of wet wool against your face, tracks of melting snow from the entry to wherever a kid pulls off her boots, and mittens warming over the radiator… all familiar comfort to a kid from Minnesota.
Fellow Osseo, Minnesota alumnus Kevin Kling gives the best description of a Snow Day I’ve ever read. You can read it here.