I remember the anticipation that would start the night before an expected storm. My two brothers and I would pepper my parents with questions at the dinner table about expected snowfall and the likelihood of a next-day school cancellation. And when it happened, it was magical. A full day of snow-covered freedom filled with neighborhood friends, warm treats, and movies. Gosh, snow days in the 90s were the best.
And they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore, for a variety of reasons. First, there really aren’t many early-morning surprise announcements anymore. Today, an automated voicemail is often sent out to parents the night before — sometimes in the wee hours, waking you from a dead sleep — and then spreads widely through text messages and social media apps.
It’s a very different vibe from my childhood snow days, which started with a dash downstairs in the wintertime morning darkness to turn on the television. I watched feverishly as the banner ticker at the bottom of the screen scrolled through all the towns with delays and cancellation announcements, screeching when my school’s name appeared. It was a little slice of Christmas morning magic on a random snowy day in January, and it was heaven on earth.
And the neighborhood scene on these white-washed days was wild. It’s almost as if you could hear the kids cheer from the house next door when the cancelation was called. My brothers and I would throw on our snow gear and meet up with the other neighborhood kids at the street sign. We would take over the block, exploring the woods behind people’s houses, climbing large mounds of snow created by plows, and even venturing down the street to the local pond to see if it had iced over. No one had a cell phone or a smartwatch. There were no Apple tag trackers or ways to check in. We were told when we left the house to come warm up when we needed to. And what do you know, we all survived.
And on our adventures, we stopped at different homes along the way. Most houses had at least one parent home. Some of whom made us brownies or hot chocolate, others quickly grabbed our mittens to throw in the dryer for a quick refresh.
It was a community of adults all chipping in to help our crew forge through the day. No one peppered us with questions or set too many limits: no dietary restrictions or micromanaging of schedules. No one had anywhere to be, and we were free to enjoy the day and turn it into whatever adventure we chose.
And when it was too cold, or we got tired, we nestled under blankets on the couch for a revolving showing of our favorite movies, with no one fighting over electronic devices or flipping wildly through short-burst videos. We would sit and enjoy the whole story arc of a long feature film, often reciting our favorite lines that we had memorized. Our parents didn’t freak themselves out about screen time limits — instead, they watched with us or entertained themselves with something else.
Now, I’m not saying my kids have awful snow days today. They still play outside making snow forts, drink hot chocolate, and get cozy on our couch. The vibe is just different. I don’t let them run wild and free throughout the neighborhood, and I am too worried about them bopping around into a bunch of homes without me knowing.
Times have changed, and so have snow days. But I will never forget that news channel ticker and my feelings I had when my school’s cancellation was announced. There is nothing quite like it.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.