Our girls are all back in school today. Quite a few area schools either delayed or cancelled again, but we are on a normal schedule.

The mechanics of snow days are very different now than they were for my generation. Remember having to sit by the radio or TV, breathlessly waiting to hear your school’s name be read out, or to see it scroll across the bottom of the screen? I recall several days where I was ready to go to school – dressed, bag packed, coat on – and stood in front of the TV until the last possible moment to see if “Raytown Consolidated School District No. 2” suddenly popped up.

Now? We get automated calls, texts, and emails as soon as our schools make a decision. You can go to any number of media websites to browse the entire list at your leisure. Sometimes those messages come at 5:30 AM and you can sneak into your kids’ rooms and turn off their alarms, leaving a note that school has been cancelled.

I think kids today still wait in anticipation of the announcement. But that moment of revelation seems to have a less mysterious quality than back in the 1980s.

The whole eLearning thing obviously makes snow days very different than in my childhood. I remember a few occasions when everyone knew a big storm was coming and teachers would give us a couple days of assignments and encourage us to take all our books home so we didn’t get too far behind. That work was generally put off until the evening before we went back to school; there was no working on them during school hours. That time was meant for playing in the snow, watching TV, playing video games, or otherwise taking advantage of the pause in our educational lives.

Covid has obviously changed snow days, too. Not just because eLearning is an option, but also because the girls are used to being home. After spending the last 10 weeks of the ’19–20 school year and about a month of the first semester of this year at home, I don’t think it feels special to them to spend a Monday-through-Friday at home. The distinction between weekday and weekend has been blurred somewhat.

When we were kids, though, snow days felt like magical departures from the norm. Once I was nine or ten, my mom left me at home to fend for myself. I had general rules of “Don’t break any bones, kill myself/someone else, or get into a situation I’m going to regret mom finding out about,” but otherwise could do whatever I wanted.

I remember taking full advantage of snow days, making detailed plans for the day. Yep, I was one of those kids who still got up early rather than slept in just so I could get to work on my list of activities. Whatever my weird hobby of the moment was would get some extra time. That could mean rolling up some new D&D characters, listening to shortwave radio stations I would not normally have a chance to hear, or just playing Pitfall for three continuous hours. I would make elaborate lunches. Or as elaborate as I could manage with what was in our cabinets and my meager culinary skills. There would be the inevitable neighborhood snowball fight. Good days were the ones when a football game broke out somewhere on my block. There was nothing better than football in the snow, diving for balls and making tackles while landing in piles of the fluffy stuff. Of course, this came with the danger of breaking my glasses, which I did once when they flew off my face and got crunched as I was thrown to the ground.

When I got to high school and either had friends who could drive or could drive myself, this meant a bonus trip to the mall. The food court would be charged with extra energy as kids who would normally be at school cruised around and checked each other out.

The first time I had a chance to do this was shortly after we moved back to Missouri from California. My mom took me out to show me how to drive in snow, and I had to earn her approval before I could go to the mall. Monday I took M across the street to drive around in the high school lot so she could get her first snowy driving experience. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, and all-wheel drive sure make it easier to get around safely than the Oldsmobile I learned to drive in. Of course, with Covid, she didn’t rush to the mall to meet friends immediately afterward, but rather just came home and got back to chatting with them on her phone.