When I was a child, there was nothing better than a snow day. Growing up in Michigan, we were guaranteed at least one or two snow days a year, and they were always fantastic. It was a full day to enjoy, in a way that the weekend never was.
When I was in elementary school, my mom wouldn’t wake me up early. She’d turn on the tv and watch the news herself. Back then, the school closures would show up in a running ticker at the bottom of the screen — maybe they still do, but it’s been so long since I’ve paid for cable that I don’t even know. If our school was closed, we’d continue to sleep blissfully. If it was still open, we’d be woken up like normal.
As I grew older, the start times for school crept closer and closer to the announcements of school closures. I’m the oldest in the family, so I would wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and then run to the family room to turn on the tv. Watching that the schools tick across the screen on that little red scroll.
If there was no school, there were no worries. I was a studious child, so my homework was always done the night before, my studying complete. A snow day wa just an extra weekend, but one without deadlines. (My brothers, on the other hand, could often be found at the kitchen table, grumbling about how they could finish their homework on the bus, if only they were taking the bus).
I didn’t worry about food, or power, or what was going on at work. I was excited when the power went off because our entire house was transformed into a magical land with candles and a roaring fire. My brothers and I would take flashlights and play tag in the dark, or hide and seek, or a thousand other games that are only really good when it’s pitch darkness. We’d build a blanket fortress in the living room and hunker down in front of the fire. When we were older we’d have to shovel the snow, not only for our drive but also all of our elderly neighbors, but we were rewarded by ice skating in the backyard, and hot cocoa waiting for us inside.
Eventually I made my way to being a teacher myself, and snow days were still just about as magical. But now, if it was a bad storm, I would worry about food going bad, or what to do if the heat went off, and eventually I would get tired of eating ramen if we hadn’t stocked up.
Now I live in Minot, North Dakota, and I’m no longer involved with schools. I don’t have children myself, and I’ve segued from teaching to law. Now when the base is closed I worry about my clients, and how they’re doing, and if anyone is calling in for me. I have to travel for courts at other bases, and I spend hours booking and rebooking plane tickets. I enjoy my job, and unlike when I was a student or a teacher, my work doesn’t magically go away because of bad weather. A docketed case is still docketed, with motions to file and witnesses to interview, and none of it goes away because of snow and wind. If I have to travel I have to travel, and if it’s pushed back it means less time to prepare.
Suddenly, instead of rejoicing that the plows can’t get out, I’m angrily peering out my window and complaining about the fact that I can’t escape. I look in my fridge and worry about the diminishing groceries. I read and reread cases and hope that will be enough, when I’m not surrounded by my notes and cocounsel.
These are the days when I want to go back to the magic of childhood. When I want to be able to embrace the snow day as a kind of fantastical Leap Day — a day that springs up and is forgotten, with no repercussions, with no change. But instead, I tend to drink my coffee and think “why couldn’t it have snowed on a Friday?”