“Snow provokes responses that reach back to childhood.” - Andy Goldworthy
No matter how old I get, I never forget the incomparable joys of a snow day. Even though I recently turned 70, when snow is predicted to fall during the night, I still find myself waking up several times to see if this might be the big one that will change tomorrow’s plans. Perhaps I should have outgrown that childhood anticipation, but I never have.
I grew up on a farm just outside of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where we didn’t have a lot of snow days. One of the biggest storms I do remember actually closed schools for a week. I still remember dairy farmers pouring their precious livelihood down their drains because the milk trucks could not navigate the drifts to pick it up.
Although I don’t remember the exact year that storm struck, I do know there was a huge storm throughout the Northeast during the winter of 1958. Some places in upstate New York got more than 75 inches. Morgantown, Pennsylvania had 50 inches. Lebanon County had well over one foot.
As a seventh grader I can still remember the huge drifts of snow that filled the banks on our lane that connected us to Mill Road. Mill Road was closed for days.
For that storm and others, we were fortunate because we had a V-shaped snow plow that attached to the front end loader of our tractor, a Farmall M-TA (Torque Amplifier), which helped us get around when few others could not. How we loved to drive that snowplow and see the snow fly off each end of those red blades.
For a big snow like that, however, you just could not drive straight through the drift. If you tried, the tractor would quickly slow down as it attempted to push the deep snow and would literally just stall out and stop. The secret was to turn to the right and lift the blade up as you pushed a pile of snow to the side. Then, you would put the tractor in reverse, back up and repeat that on the other side. Eventually, you would get through the drifts, little by little.
We loved plowing snow with that old tractor. But it was always more fun on a snow day. There is a lot of routine on a dairy farm. Every morning and every evening the chores are the same. Dairy farmers know the drill. Sometimes you almost feel as though you could do them with your eyes closed.
But that all changed on a snow day. Getting up early was easier. The bales of hay and straw and the buckets of milk were lighter. The cleanup process was smoother. Everything went faster. Even the cows seemed nicer.
We didn’t have a lot of snow days. However, we spent a lot of time anticipating big storms. I understand Lucy Maud Montgomery when she said, “Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them.” Or why Elizabeth Gaskill said, “Anticipation was the soul of enjoyment.”
Anticipation of a snow day is indeed part of the exhilaration. And though there aren’t as many hills in Minnesota and everyone is prepared for big snowstorms, even there life can be stopped in winter. You just don’t live for 21 years in the land of the frozen chosen as we did without some snow days.
During those years our children were small and the words of Susan Orlean resonated: “One of the very best reasons for having children is to be reminded of the incomparable joys of a snow day.” No matter where you live or how old you are, there is just nothing quite like a snow day.
In case you think winter is over, it is important to note that the big Northeastern snowstorm in 1958 was on March 20.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Responses can be emailed to email@example.com. Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer. Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer. Archives at: valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit.