The wind rattled our Ranch-style house in Middle River. Had our place been a victim of a snowball fight in the night? It appeared so; great clots of snow stuck to my bedroom windows, obscuring the view.
I flicked my gaze to the clock. 5:35 a.m. The blankets on my bed usually kept me in their cozy clutches on a school morning, but not today. Maybe they sensed my excitement at what was to come.
I padded into the kitchen. Outside the window whiteness swirled, and the crabapple in the front yard was an apparition in the dim light. A gust picked up a load of snow from the roof and flung it off, blotting out any sign of the tree. My siblings and I wouldn’t be expected to brave these conditions to go to school, would we? Was fifth grade really that important for me to risk my life getting there?
I scurried to my parents’ room. The only one in the world who had the power to call off school that day was still in bed next to Mom, his arm curled around his transistor radio. The brown, leather-covered box crackled out weather updates, and my heart lurched with hope.
“Dad, Dad,” I said, making prayer hands, “please call off school today. Please.”
The superintendent of three small schools in northern Minnesota, wearing boxers and a v-neck undershirt, threw his legs over the side of the bed and stood. “We’ll see.”
I pranced back to my bedroom, a smile splitting my face in two. The day was mine—I just knew it. Adventures beckoned, and I tugged on my snowsuit.
On Monday, January 22, 2018, I navigated a snowy city to collect my girls. I thought of Dad calling off school decades earlier when blizzards blasted our tiny town near the Canadian border. On stormy days, he got dressed in the wee hours and drove the country roads a few miles in each direction to see if they were passable. He would make a decision about school and report it to KTRF, the radio station in the neighboring town of Thief River Falls.
Winds whipped up the falling snow as I sat in the Honda at Target Field waiting for my high schoolers to emerge from the train. I scrolled through my phone for weather reports. The girls soon tromped through the precipitation to the car. When they opened the doors, snowflakes and exuberance blew into the warm space.
“I asked Mr. Aponte if we could have a snow day tomorrow,” Ricka said.
I chuckled. As if the principal of one city school could alone make the decision. “And?”
“He said, ‘We’ll call you.’”
Nature worked hard that night to put a halt to our plans—to pull us into an adventure. And true to Principal Aponte’s word, they called us.
After the shoveling the next morning, the girls donned bikinis and bolted into the back yard for The Snow Dive Challenge, which wasn’t a dive at all, but instead a quick roll through the nine-inch deep accumulation. Drawn by all the shrieking, the dog zipped outside too, probably hoping to join in on all the reindeer games. Within seconds, though, it was over. The girls dashed back inside, leaving the animal cocking her head at the back door.
Dad and the local radio station announced the weather cancellations of my childhood; robocalls and the internet announced my girls’. A hallmark of my snow days? Snowsuits. A sign of my girls’? Swimsuits—at least this time. But whether announced by airwaves or on a website, whether we’re bundled up or bared, a snow day is a free day.
And there’s always adventure.
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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.