LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — In the nearly nine years I’ve been writing this column, I’ve tried to vary my topics to keep things fresh. But when we get a good, healthy snow day like this one, I feel helpless to write about anything else. Because snow days are my very favorite thing about living in Kentucky.
Right now, it’s 10:23 and I’m waiting for the teenager to wake up so we can head outside. Last night, when the snow hit and that distinctive blizzard-white was swirling around the windows, I ran upstairs to Gabrielle’s room and suggested we run around the house in flip flops. While my husband William slumbered peacefully, we squealed around the house, the fierce, wet snow getting our nightgowns all wet. I foresee a whole lot of tobogganing in our future today, followed by homemade hot chocolate with bittersweet chips just how she likes it.
I’m also going to recommend a crisp walk around the neighborhood so we can witness in full how beautiful everything has become — this may be a slightly harder sell with the teenager.
When I was a kid, we had exactly two snow days I can remember and these were only the result of monster blizzards. But while we almost never got released from school because of snow, we had plenty of fun outside in it.
At our house, a hill led down to our walkout basement and if the wind and snow were just right, one corner of that hill, the one catty corner to a deck, would be covered in an extreme drift. So fantastic was this drift — it rivaled the ones in the National Geographic pictures of the Sahara — that we could play inside it all day.
Actually, I say play, but I mean build as the base of the drift would become the door of the snow fort and we would spend the rest of the afternoon tunneling and clearing. Sometimes, the drift would be so big we could make an opening in the roof without disturbing the rest of the structure. After hours of digging, we’d pop our heads out like seals, feeling like we had just emerged from a different world.
Of course, the hill part of the hill was reserved for tobogganing. When we were very little, we had the classic wooden toboggan with the curled front that looks like an upside-down wave. We’d tuck our boots in that and let ‘er rip until we would crash into the glass sliding door that led into the basement. After that, my dad bought us sleds that were little more than thin pieces of plastic that had two holes in the front to represent handles. One was lilac, the other yellow.
When we got older, we’d head to the river with these suckers and use the banks for our slopes — hills are pretty hard to come by in the prairies. Sliding onto the frozen river, sometimes you’d get to see bald, grey patches of ice and wonder how the heck the poor fish were doing under there.
Once I had my driver’s license, my little brother Matthew, my friends and I would go to John Bloomberg golf course at night and go to the biggest hill on the course. That hill was nothing to sneeze at, and you wanted to be good and sure you used proper tobogganing technique — falling off mid-descent meant you could yank a shoulder out of place or pull some other strange muscle.
The two days we actually got out of school because of the snow happened when I was still in elementary school. I remember them because I spent them at my best friend Kristin’s house — my parents had to go to work and Kristin’s mom Jocelyn sold real estate so her schedule, as my mom explained to me, “was more flexible.”
Kristin and I spent the day searching for places to play, quickly getting sweaty in our snowsuits from walking in the deep snow. She had a forest beside her yard, which had some magical potential to play house in, but the forest was more fun in warmer weather when we could hang our purses on hooks on the birch trees, swaddle our babies in nests of leaves and set up shop. It was a little hard to do these things with mitts on.
I’m hoping my stepdaughter Gabrielle has similarly great memories of the snow, and I’m proud to say that when it comes to the cold, she’s tough, tough, tough. So now if she could just wake up, our winter wonderland day can start.