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Snow Days Just Ain't What They Used To Be

Snow Days Just Ain’t What They Used To Be

By Mir Kamin

I don’t know if this is a “Good Old Days” vs. “Modern Life” thing, or simple a South vs. North thing, but I can tell you that a modern snow day here in the south is nothing like what I remember from my (many) snow days growing up in central New York.

When I was a kid (“Back in my day, Sonny…”), school was only canceled if there was an active blizzard happening in the morning when the buses were supposed to run. Going to bed at night while the snow accumulated and all was eerie and still—there’s nothing quite like the way a blanket of snow muffles sound—was no guarantee of a day off. If the snow stopped or even lessened by morning, the plows would run and everything continued on schedule. For added interest, back then there was no such thing as a bus stop right outside your house, either. I grew up on a dirt road that wasn’t always plowed in a speedy manner, and we had to walk… oh, I don’t know, maybe a quarter or a third of a mile or so, to get down to the main intersection where the bus stop was. At that intersection was a sign for a dog kennel, the kind where a placard hung from two heavy chains from a wrought iron crosspiece on a tall pole. The plows would shove the snow to the side of this sign, and so all winter long we kids measured the severity of the weather by the height of the resultant hill. It was a mild season if standing on the snow pile merely brought us to the face-to-face with the kennel sign. If you could stand atop the snow pile and throw snowballs down to hit the sign, well, that was a different story.

Nowadays, they cancel school if it’s too cold outside, and then everyone takes to Facebook to debate the merits of this decision. (Kids today are pansies! Kids in our district don’t have proper outerwear! Back in my day, we got frostbite and we liked it! You could get hypothermia just waiting for the bus!) Here in Georgia, a snow day is obviously a rarity, but it’s not unusual for school to be canceled if the forecast even calls for snow or ice. We have no plows, no salt, and our trees have a nasty habit of falling over or dropping limbs in protest whenever we do get any sort of wintry mix that accumulates. We’re also very big fans of Burst Pipe Emergencies, here, as sustained below-freezing temps are virtually guaranteed to cause plumbing problems here in “oh there’s no reason to worry about freezing” land. Snow days for actual snow hardly ever happen, but snow days for “threat of snow” or “school flooding” are less rare than it seems like they ought to be.

When I was a kid, a snow day meant we wrapped ourselves up in our snow gear until we looked like Randy from A Christmas Story (“I can’t put my arms down!”) and headed out to play, even once we were teenagers. Sure, you wore two or three pairs of socks and then put plastic bags over your feet, tucked into pants or held on with rubber bands, before donning your ski pants and boots, and every single one of us owned some sort of face mask or multiple scarves, and we looked ridiculous, but the idea that it was too cold to play outside never occurred to us. We went sledding, we built snowmen, and—if the snow was the right kind—we built forts. We stayed out until we could no longer feel our fingers and toes, and then we went in only long enough to slurp down some Campbell’s soup and dry out our gear and do it all over again.

Nowadays, the wonder just isn’t there. When we still lived up north and the kids were small, they’d play a little (if an adult went out with them), then complain of the cold and want to come in and watch television. Now that the kids are teens and our southern storms are more likely to be ice than snow, I’d probably have to set the house on fire to get them off their computers. (The one notable exception is the year we got a fluffy six inches of powder, and our dog was so baffled and delighted, we did all spend some time chasing her around the yard.) We don’t have proper winter gear, anyway, and the relative charm of being wet and cold no longer holds any allure. Also, I’m not naming any names, but someone in this house has been known to grump, “Why do you always make soup when the weather’s crappy??”

When I was a kid, if we lost power, my parents would build a big fire, and it was the only time that we kids were allowed to carry candles around the house. I’d drag blankets over to the fireplace, make myself a nest as close to the flames as I was allowed, set up my candle, and read for hours. I’d pretend I was back in Little House on the Prairie times.

Nowadays, if we lose power, my teenagers turn into approximations of Gollum, only instead of bickering over a ring, they want my MiFi and backup battery charger to keep their Internet connection and iDevices running. Because otherwise they can’t talk to their friiiiiiiends and they are so booooooored, and it’s so cooooold, but the fire is too hoooooooot and this flashlight is stupiiiiiid and needs batteriiiiiiies. Sometimes when this is happening, I curl up by the fire with a book and pretend to be deaf.

Why, yes, we are having early dismissal today for an impending ice storm. Why do you ask?

[Edited to add: While my waxing nostalgic or poking fun at the south’s response to winter weather is all a bit tongue in cheek, please understand that this piece was written yesterday well ahead of the horrific conditions that ultimately descended upon Atlanta and surrounding areas. I mean in no way to make light of the very real danger and challenges of a metropolitan area unequipped to deal with a true weather emergency. Our thoughts and prayers are with all impacted by this storm, with fervent wishes for everyone to stay warm and safe!]

Published January 28, 2014. Last updated January 29, 2014.
About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Sam

    January 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    It does seem odd how schools are being cancelled recently. It grew up in the south, where yes school is cancelled for frozen precip because there are no trucks to handle it but now I live in Kansas where it is cold and yucky 6 months out of the year(at least according to my Southern standards). I was BAFFLED when my son’s school was cancelled because it was too cold. Isn’t it always too cold here? Why is one single digit temp day too cold and the rest aren’t?

    I always wonder if it is because we are so litigious. Someone got hurt going to school on a cold day and sued and BAM now the schools close for everything. 

  • mkw

    January 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Grew up in ND. 20 miles from Canadian border. 20 miles from school. Somedays we would leave our vehicles running all day just so we knew they would start later! (Fuel much cheaper 35 years ago.) They never canceled classes. May issue a statement like, “School in-session for all those who can safely get to the building.” Now. In Iowa they cancel school at the drop of a hat. I often joke that we are sitting home on a snow day that would be considered suntanning weather in ND! P.S. I think our kids have been out of school more days than they’ve been in school since holiday break. . . .poor me!

  • […] it would be a good time to direct any whippersnappers to my post today at Alpha Mom about how these southern snow days do NOT remind me of my youth. And if that’s not enough—or if you’re in a cooking mood—last week I shared […]

  • Ally

    January 28, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I am also a northerner now living in the south. The kids missed 3 days last week, and it will probably be the same this week. It’s a little understandable since there are no plows or salt trucks. My kids really love the snow and they did play outside a lot last week. 

  • My Kids Mom

    January 28, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Oh just be grumps! I drove over to the middle school so my kid could come home to play in the snow. By the time I got there they’d decided to close early anyway. We’ve had unused sleds in our garage for three years waiting for today. Math? Unimportant compared to a white hill! Come on Mir, come play!

    Now, I do wish I could give icy driving lessons to all those dang stop-and-start drivers out there…. Glad to be home safe, with kids, sleds and hot cocoa and no where else we need to go.

  • MaryFran

    January 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    My favorite weather man here (in Boston) said, “When did we get so afraid of any snow?” when all the schools were preemptively canceling with the forecast of 4″. That said, it warmed up to 20 today so my kids declined my offer of hats and gloves. They did still zip their coats, so there’s that…

  • Wendy

    January 28, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Ahh,  the good old days.  I have the same memories of ridiculous outfits and the thrill and adventure of magical snow days.  I often find myself disappointed when our children complain about cold when it drops below 60 degrees or would prefer to do nothing except stick their nose in their internet devices.  I wonder where I went wrong, how did my offspring end up so different?  Its a painful thing to be disappointed in your children, but that is where expectations come in.  Being a parent reminds you of your childhood so much and I just want them to have the same happy memories I had growing up. I guess forcing them to have fun isn’t really productive. *sigh*

  • April

    January 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I live in upstate NY and have lived here four years now. School has been cancelled once, for one day, and for the first time this winter. I think it’s just a location thing. I grew up in the NW where school was cancelled for just a forecast of snow.

  • Erin

    January 28, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I agree whole heartedly! I am a nanny and would get excited when the kids had snow days because I figured we’d spend the day sledding and making snowmen then coming in for hot cocoa and board games. The kids have absolutely no interest in that. We spend the whole day negotiating screen time.

  • myboyzach

    January 28, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for the memories Mir. I’d forgotten about the plastic bags over the socks into the boots. I’d actually forgotten about the entire winter gear get-up. It would take hours to get dressed to go out to play and hours to get the wet stuff off.
    I grew up outside of Boston and we’d get some days off. The town had a ‘fire whistle’ (still do) that would blow the no school whistle at 7am. After playing outside, warming up with tomato soup, any other free time would be spent doing home work or reading. If we didn’t go to school–no TV.
    Ah, the good ‘old’ days !!

  • Frances

    January 29, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Happy to report that up here in Canada they still never cancel school (not even if the buses aren’t running, not in the city anyway) and the kids still love the giant pile of snow in the front yard, and the sledding hill down the street is still the most popular place to be the day after a snowstorm.  It’s never too cold to play outside…and now we actually DO have decent winter gear for kids all of it is way more comfortable than it ever was.

    But yeah, there’s grumbling about the soup at my house too.

  • ladybug

    January 30, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Wow!  I, too, had forgotten about plastic bags!  I do think my kids are the only ones on our block with boots.

    The way they do it in NC is very civilized.  We knew Monday afternoon that school would be closed Tuesday, so there was plenty of time to get to the store and clean them out of marshmallows, cocoa & milk.  It didn’t start snowing until late Tuesday, so the kids were home today to play in the snow. We actually got 1 1/2″ of very nice powder snow!  Just found out school is also closed Thursday, until it all melts.  Friday it will be 50 degrees, so everyone can drive again.  Very different than growing up in upstate NY!

    And my kids grumble about the collards in the soup.

  • Katie

    February 2, 2014 at 9:27 am

    I too laughed at the impending Southern Snow Day but as my BFF from Atlanta points out, there are NO snow plows and salt  and it’s generally ice.  So I’ll give you all a break.

    Here in central Indiana, we had Polar Vortex/Snowpocalypse at the beginning of January and most of my kids did go out and play in the 12″ we got in one day.  It was perfect packing snow too, there were lots of snowmen and snow forts in the neighborhood.  Course the next day with -40 wind chill, I made them stay in.

    Oh and while I LOVE the internet, I do get annoyed with how attached my kids are to it.  But that’s a rant for another day, right?