Winter is my least favorite season, but as a child, there was one precious gift that winter sometime delivered: a snow day. It was so exciting to hear the WFIN announcer share that “North Baltimore Schools have been closed.” And, it was magical thinking about what the unplanned day had in store for us, especially if there was a good covering of snow on the ground.
After some initial television watching and eating breakfast at a more relaxed pace than a normal school day, it wasn’t long before we were piling into boots, hats, gloves, and snow pants to begin our great outdoor escapade. As soon as one family from the Beecher Street gang started playing outdoors, it was only a matter of moments before kids from other families joined us. And then the fun began!
Based on the amount and packing quality of the snow, we initially had to determine if it was a snowball day, a snowman day, or best of all, a snow fort building day. As soon as we agreed upon our creation, we started to work: making snowballs for ammunition or rolling big snowballs in the yard to construct a snowman or a snow fort.
On the best packing days, we could roll huge snowballs, but we sometimes forgot to plan how we would lift the completed project onto the second or third level of the snowman. Together we tried to lift them; sometimes we succeeded but often we did not.
Snowmen always created another complication near the end of the project. Once we had three nice snowballs stacked on one another, there came the inevitable discussion about how we would dress the snowman. Would he have a hat and scarf? Who had a long carrot at home for the nose? What could we use as eyes?
After hours and hours of playing in the snow, we would finally get so cold that we needed to go home to warm up and dry our clothes before we headed out for more winter adventures. As I recall the best snow days of my childhood, I can still remember those cold red marks around the top of my boots and above my gloves. And I can still remember that huge pile of boots, coats, hats and mittens strewn about the laundry room when we came in to warm up. (I later learned that snow days aren’t quite as much fun for moms as the kids.)
I do have one regret about childhood winters in North Baltimore; even though our childhood snow days seem magical, I realize in hindsight that we were deprived of a snow treat that most children take for granted: easy access to a sledding hill. This is definitely one disadvantage to growing up in a region that is one of the flattest places in America. As we got older, we did drag our sleds to the water treatment plant near the city park and sometimes, our parents drove us to other sledding opportunities at Van Buren State Park, but we never really experienced an action-packed exhilarating day of sledding.
So, the next snowy day when you’re grumbling under your breath as you are scraping your car and dreading a slippery morning commute, remember that there is likely a long list of local school closures being announced on the radio and lucky schoolchildren are awakening to one of winter’s most exciting surprise gifts: an unplanned day of snowy adventure.