according to our local weather guru, cliff mass, and something one learns as a native, it takes a very rare and special confluence of events to bring significant snow to my city. that being said, even as a child, i awaited snow with a kind of ferocity because i believed it meant participating in a shared, mythical, event.
as children snow days were rare, but they were wonderful. we often used up every bit of snow in the yard constructing snowmen, forts, and snowballs. then we’d run inside where my mother had snacks and hot chocolates waiting for us. we might walk to the library, stopping for hot drinks along the way. and every now and again i’d gaze up and see the snow falling against the tall evergreens.
in other words, it doesn’t snow often here. when it snows, it’s almost like a winter festival/holiday has spontaneously erupted. the city shuts down. the university closes. everyone lives on a hill and cannot drive their cars. and people bundle up into their make-shift snow gear and run into the streets.
somehow, my neighborhood breakfast diner is miraculously open, and my husband and i begin the day with strawberry topped belgian waffles and steaming mugs of hot chocolate topped with a tower of whipped cream. nothing tastes better than strawberry waffles when one is sitting by the window of a cafe and looking out into the white and silent streets, while the snow keeps falling down. and piling up. it’s so good that we stuff ourselves silly. way too silly. and decide to work off breakfast by a walk in the snow.
we walk down about 40 blocks past the zoo and wonder if it’s open? (no.) but we think about how much fun it would be to see the animals frolicking. my hat is literally frozen with ice that’s collected on it, and his shoes are starting to soak through, so we turn around and head back to our cozy apartment. on the way home we see other snow animals outside the local bookstore–which amazingly, is open. along the way we see the local pubs, pizzerias, cafes, and markets bustling with people–enjoying the snow day. like a more public version of conventional winter holidays–it has community feel. we say hello to each other as we pass on the streets, and ask our barista if he had troubles getting in to work. we tell our server that we hope his commute home is safe.
the neighborhood kids congregate at hills that have been blocked off because of the snow, and sled down. our local hardware store sells out of sleds and toboggans.
when we get home we shake off our coats, gloves, hats, scarves and knock our shoes against the steps. we hang our wet outer ware in the bathroom to dry and we open the curtains and sit together, looking out onto the snowy streets. we have a cup of chocolate.
snow days are about daily pleasures–little things. brightly colored scarves and hot drinks. baking indoors and the purity of the snow, covering up all the imperfections in the streets. it’s about a normal daily walk turning into something wondrous. sitting in front of a fire with friends and family. rituals for an unofficial holiday, which comes but only once-in-a-while.