virtual children by Scott Warnock

And what of a snow day

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The reality is that I did not walk seven miles uphill both ways to school in three feet of snow, even in June. Neither did you. But things were different when we were little, weren’t they, you 30- and 40- and 50-somethings? Things were certainly different when it snowed.

Maybe your kids are more ambitious than mine, but snow days don’t seem to be what they once were. When we were little and we had a snow day — the closing number I still remember: 579 — we would go out in the snow and never come back. No laying around watching Netflix or playing Atari. I told my middle son these things as he sat around, hot chocolate in hand, on a snowy day.

I told him how we would assemble at the top of Coleman Road, a ragged pack of us, waiting for cars to bumper ride. The cars would slowly come around the corner – nothing was ever plowed that well – and the kids would scramble behind it, grab the bumper, and take a trip. Nice teenagers would slow down, make sure we were all hooked on, and give us a ride. Mean ones would do the same, but once we grabbed on, they would speed and swerve down the street, leaving us strewn about.

I told him about snowballs. Four of us were walking down the street when some little kid standing on his porch taunted us. That’s what little kids did back then. We fired on him. He was pinned on the porch, afraid to open the door in case a snowball made its way in. We cackled as the little punk cowered. But out of the house burst the brother. About five years older than us. Unbuttoned flannel shirt with no t-shirt underneath. Scraggly hair. Blue jeans. No shoes. Probably getting stoned to Rush in the basement. This maniac charged after us. We ran, but one of us was too slow. The maniac caught him. All we could do was watch as he got kicked, rolling down the street. He was smart, though, and he balled up in his thick snowsuit. We thought of intervening but let it play itself out. Our pal eventually got up, brushed himself off, and cursed us out for abandoning him. Off we went.

I told him about my neighbor’s dad, who was never out with the kids otherwise, like today’s dads are, outside playing with people a quarter their age all the time. But he was out there this one snow day. Big old dude. I crept around a car and there he was, in the alley between the car and house. He turned and unloaded on me. Splat! Crushed me right in the face. I walked home, cheeks ice-burning red, all deflated and sullen. No one cared. No one came to my rescue. No one got sued.

I told him about throwing snowballs at cars, and how weird it is that I have not had my car struck by a snowball in at least a decade. I remember us, though, crouched behind some cover by a road. We would pelt cars as they went by. The highlight would be when some nut would whip has car around and leap out and come after us. Then the chase was on. Once, I told him, one of us had to go to the bathroom. Bad. Number two. We didn’t want to go home. We told him just to go there in the woods. He finally agreed — he had to– but he told us to stop hitting cars for a few minutes. We said we’d stop. But we lied. We kept up the pelting, and of course, one car whipped around and put its headlights on us. We had to make our dash through the woods. What did that driver think as  he saw in the midst of those scurrying forms the moon of a crying, snowpants-less kid?

I told him about snow football. We played for hours, visions of our NFL heroes in our heads. Thank god there was no video, because we felt so fast, so tough, tromping through the snow until a pile of kids piled on us and brought us down. Why see that it was so much less than that?

I told him about any excuse for a battle. We would use the massive piles on the side of the driveway as forts. Once Pete kicked Blair in the head by accident, leaving a scar that’s there to this day. Blair had to lie on the vinyl floor in our laundry room for a long time waiting for his annoyed parents to finish dinner and take him to the hospital. He had his hands crossed, stoic, trying to ignore the open gash in his forehead.

It was a bunch of stuff to do, I told him. We all survived. We’d leave in the morning. I don’t remember lunches. I don’t remember warmth. I remember trudging through the icy streets in the dark with my jeans frozen into hoops that swiveled on my skinny legs. Fingers numbed into claws. Frozen toes. It was magnificent.

I emailed Blair and Pete the other day after we got some snow: “Ah, if only we still lived near each other. What a glorious day it would be.”

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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14 Responses to “And what of a snow day”

  1. It just wasn’t one snowball at a car, first the archers with big heavy lobed bombs that would make a great bang off the hood or roof and if they dared to stop well then the snipers would just rocket a flurry pelting the poor sap back into the car. Wtf Warnock you gonna make me break out Cat Stevens?

  2. I remember going to the hill behind my elementary school with my family and sledding at night! This wasn’t considered “cool” past a certain age, but no one knew we were there. What a cherished family memory!

  3. “Blair had to lie on the vinyl floor in our laundry room for a long time waiting for his annoyed parents to finish dinner and take him to the hospital. He had his hands crossed, stoic, trying to ignore the open gash in his forehead.”

    Worth the price of admission.

    Also: “Sled Wars.” You do realize that you people were/are slightly insane, no? This should at least mitigate the horror your kids’ (and my kids’) lack of snowy frolickosity.

  4. Obama ruined it all for our kids. But at least they don’t have to worry about repaying those pesky college loans like we did. Just borrow it and forget it!

  5. I guess it’s just another thing global warming, I mean climate change has taken from us.

  6. Love it, I have the same type of memories. My daughter still digs her snow time, out for hours, frozen solid by the time she comes back in. Winter was good.

  7. We were raised by Baby Boomers, a tougher stock. They didn’t coddle us and stick their noses into our every activity. In turn, Gen Xers are raising the weakest and most entitled generation of kids this country has ever seen. That said, my kids did spend a fair amount of time in the snow. Now me, a kid who used to play in the snow until her fingers and toes were numb, didn’t want to go near it!

  8. For the record when my Dad did finally arrive I got yelled at for not shoveling the driveway. Which I did before leaving to enjoy the rest of the day. It kept snowing ….. it needed to be shoveled again…..but not by me.

    If only we lived closer. We would terrorize your kids and they would understand the value of …….PAIN.

  9. Wow memories. How about the good old white wash (rubbing the face of someone else in the snow). Wondering why the kid dropping a deuce in the woods wasn’t pelted by you guys ( at least a little bit) what great times they were

  10. It it possible to watch Netflix and “play Atari” without time travel? Which might suggests your kids are more industrious than you think.

  11. Love this. Thanks for writing it. I remember going sledding in the golf course behind a friend’s house. At the bottom of a hill was a creek (pronounced “crick,” of course). We only had one sled, so we all piled on. Six or seven of us, and I was on the bottom. The idea was more weight, more momentum, faster ride. You just had to remember to roll of the sled before you hit the creek. Everyone else rolled off just in time; I flew through the air for a few glorious seconds before landing hard in the not-quite-frozen creek.
    The friend’s dad who was with us hauled me out of the creek, brushed some leaves off of me and offered to carry the sled back up to the top of the hill for the next run. I shivered and quaked through an hour more of sledding. I knew I was probably going to get sick. I knew my friend’s dad should take me back to his house to call my mom. I knew I was not making a wise decision. But damn it I was not going to to miss the sledding or wuss out and whine. No matter how blue I turned. I removed few of the wettest outer layers and shoved those girls off me before we got to the creek for the next hour.
    My mom was livid, but I was no worse for the wear. We never did figure out how to jump the creek without landing in it, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

  12. Scott,

    All you need do is change the names… My childhood snow-time memories are all very much the same: tackle football in the deep snow (even the no-so-deep), snowball fights that only ended once there was an injury serious enough to derail the volley, escape route preplanned for that one driver ambitious (and angry) enough to run after us when a direct hit landed on his new/old car (we were only practicing for upcoming baseball season and quite proud of our aiming prowess), sledding with nothing that ever resembled a store-bought sled; waxed cardboard Amoroso bread boxes worked awesomely, and, if we could fit it in during consecutive days of snowfall, going door-to-door to shovel to make a fortune (maybe $20.00 in one day!) and not one kid ever got stolen…weird!

    Great memories, great times, great life-shaping events…dare you to a snowball fight next time the white stuff falls, Warnock! Better bring your “A-game.”

  13. I remember ice skating on the horseshoe pond at the golf course late in the night. We would build bonfires and drink and no one stopped us.The “hitching” off the back of cars was soooo dangerous. The sledding was just kids(no nosy parents). I hate to say it, but those really were the days.
    I would hate to be a kid today. “The man” would never allow those freedoms we enjoyed then, today -ooops I think I became “the man”

  14. Scott ~ you are too much. Can’t wait to read the book. Love you!! Coach

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