Lament for snow days

Sherri Gardner HowellBlount, Farragut, Kitchen Table Talk

I remember the spring of 1977 after graduating from the University of Tennessee the year before. I was a full-fledged member of the Knoxville News-Sentinel Women’s Department, writing wedding, engagement and anniversary stories and, at every opportunity, a human interest story.

I loved my job. I loved living in my own apartment in Knoxville. I had made an abbreviated Christmas trip home, and my mom had already been to visit once since then to help “get me settled.”

I was a grown-up, it was spring, and our department was buzzing. We were the central coverage pages for the Dogwood Arts Festival plus all the debutante balls, garden parties and, well, wedding season was fast approaching. Plenty to do, for sure.

Still, I remember waking up one morning in mid-March and feeling like I had been smacked in the face. The realization hit me: No Spring Break.

The days of hitting pause to enjoy a week or at least few days of no-deadlines, no-commitment fun was gone. Any time I took “off” would come out of the meager allotment I had of vacation days for the entire year.

It was a “welcome to the real world” day, and I remember not being too fond of this reality.

These past few days, as my grandsons in both Seattle and Nashville watched their yards and neighborhoods turn into winter wonderlands with beautiful snowfalls, I have felt that same pang of loss for their new reality: Is virtual learning the end of Snow Days?

It’s hard to bemoan it this year, when learning days have been fought for so hard. Still, you can’t put the lessons COVID-19 has taught us back in the bottle. We now have the resources to have school when physically getting to school is impossible. I am sure it will remain in education’s toolbox as a viable option when the need arises.

Changes are sometimes neither good nor bad. This is one of those, I think. Still, I am a little sad for my grandchildren. Their fathers were the kings of the world when it came to appreciating snow days.

I was a combination “work from home” and stay-at-home mom for most of my sons’ elementary school years. The boys knew if school was closed, they stayed home.

I remember being amused at their approaches. Brett would always wake up even earlier than normal to sit in front of the television or listen to the radio for that all-important announcement: Knox County Schools are closed today. Trey would stay in bed until cancelation was a fact, and then bound out to join his brother. Snow gear would be piled at the door, waiting for signs of life from the other houses in our child-filled cul-de-sac. I would line the entry-way floor with towels, ready for the inevitable in-and-out that would begin soon.

Our Snow Box – prepacked every year with goodies we would need for snow days – would be opened. It always had at least one surprise for each of them, plus survival items like the makings for S’mores, hot chocolate and chili (minus the ground beef), gloves because we never could find them and a craft item to make.

There was no explaining the psychology behind the joy of snow days except to understand that they were bonus days – unexpected, fun days where nothing that happened (at least in Tennessee) was what would normally happen.

So much fun. I am sorry to see them go.

The only thing better, according to my children, were Mom and Me days. Mom and Me days were those naughty days when I would show up at school just before lunch and check out one or both of them for no reason except to have lunch with Mom and play hooky in the afternoon. They never knew when they were coming, and the days were often declared “the best days ever,” no matter what the afternoon activity was.

My grandsons have very fun parents. I feel certain they will be well compensated over the long haul for the loss of snow days.

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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