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Commentary

One Baby Boomer Laments The Demise Of The Snow Day

A winter storm hit Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in a file photo.
Adam Frenier
/
NEPR
A winter storm hit Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in a file photo.

Among the casualties of modern era — which at present include the rotary dial telephone, black and white television and good grammar — another cherished part of my childhood stands poised on the edge of extinction: the snow day.

We still have snow of course, often times in buckets snarling highways, wreaking havoc on airlines and challenging the aching backs of baby boomer shovelers.

But then the snow day was never really about the snow. It was about childhood hope, akin to the arrival of Santa Claus or the tooth fairy, that something was coming in the hours past bedtime that would turn the ordinary bleakness of winter into something, well, special.

When forecasting amounted to not much more than gazing out the window, snow days used to creep in on cat’s feet urged on by the watchful eyes of school children with half-done homework hoping for a heavenly reprieve.

Today, of course, school is canceled at the command of Lord Doppler long before a single flake hits the ground. But I can recall when an upcoming storm was the call to put away the books and begin the mad quest through chest and closet in search of gloves and galoshes.

Galoshes at the ready, my family gathered around the radio as if tracking troop movements on D-Day. Nearby towns led by less stalwart superintendents fell to the onslaught of a few inches of snow, while mine — it seemed — held on to the last flake before finally canceling classes as dawn broke, amid a collective sigh of relief that the day ahead would be all ours.

And what a day it was, full of epic snowball fights, waged behind makeshift snow forts, and damn the galoshes as snow crept into every crevice.

When parental intervention ended the battle, we decamped to the kitchen to be greeted with a blast of warm air and the whiff of hot chocolate befitting a hero’s welcome. It was Ovaltine, marshmallows and Monopoly straight to dinner.

Compare all that, if you will, to the snow day of today. Beleaguered parents now sentenced to working from home, and children condemned to checking their assignments on the internet.

Holy Galoshes! I much prefer my version.

Commentator Robert Chipkin lives, writes and shovels his own snow in Springfield, Massachusetts

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