Our snow day isn’t the day when all the schools and daycares are closed. That’s the day when we hide indoors, sheltered from bitter winds and the deluge of ice descending from the skies. Periodically we will look out the window to see clouds covering the sky and snowflakes dancing along in the wind. Everything is slowly covered up outside until nothing but white remains in the fading light
No, our snow day comes the next day. Or maybe the day after. We must wait for that rare day when the conditions are just right. It happens when everyone else has gone back to school or work. The snow has finally stopped falling and the sky is a brilliant blue. The roads and paths have been lightly cleared. Just enough for small cars and people to squelch past. Glittering mounds of crunchy soft snow have been pushed aside by the ploughs. They remake the street into an alien landscape just outside our door.
My youngest is not ready yet for more active snow adventures like sledding or skiing or snowball fights. I am not ready for dragging them far in cold weather, and inevitably carrying the one having a tantrum the whole way back while the other whines and complains. This though –a readymade playground on our doorstep– is entirely manageable. For many days and weeks the eldest has been told that it was not the right time for burying himself in tough icy snow on our way to and from various places. “Today!” I announce to the kids. “Today is our snow day!”
Out into the dazzling winter sunshine we go. Wrapped tightly in warm waterproof layers, to climb over snow powder hills and carve tunnels through them. Cheeks burning red in the frosted air and eyes squinting against clear sunlight that you won’t find on Irish grey wintry days. The toddler huffs and puffs at the unsteady ground under his feet. Initially demanding to return inside, then reluctantly pottering about unsteadily while his brother dives straight into the mounds of snow. He soon finds his snow legs and revels in the satisfying feel of his boots sinking into the delicate crystals. Now he’s digging earnestly too, spraying handfuls into the air around him.
Rectangular igloos mark spaces where people have spent hours (and I mean hours) digging their cars out before the morning commute. Traffic is rare on our one-way street, leaving these random structures free for play right now. Eventually the snow removal vehicles will come to shovel them away to vast snow dumps whose scale we can only imagine. Until then all this discarded fresh snow is ours to make of what we will.
Soon both children are a flurry of activity, scooping snow and clamouring for their latest creation to be admired before they move on to the next. The odd pedestrian stomps by. Most pause to observe for a moment and smile. Sometimes we all wish we were young and brave enough to see the mountains of snow not as a great inconvenience to life, but as an opportunity to play like no one else can see us making an undignified (but extremely fun) passage through them. Is youth really wasted on the young?
Of course it’s me that eventually gets too cold to want to linger any longer outdoors. Reinvigorated by the rarer winter chance to run and play, the children will have to be bribed back indoors for a warm lunch. The lonely snow piles outside slowly begin to melt under the rays of afternoon sunshine. Our discarded clothing slowly dries, ready for the next adventure. The next perfect Snow Day.