While trying to find radiator space to dry Little P’s snow soaked clothing after her first day of snow fun I had a flashback to my own Mum doing exactly the same thing so many years ago. I can remember snow days probably as my clearest childhood memories. I can’t tell you the years, the dates or my ages. I don’t think childhood memories are neatly filed in date order, mine certainly aren’t anyway. They merge and overlap, categorised by people and places, emotions and sensations. But the snowy ones are among the most vivid.
Obviously there was no internet or social media back then (in the olden days!) so we relied on ‘the weather’ on RTÉ for our snow forecast. There were the important predictions in the schoolyard for days beforehand, little bits of info combined to convince us all that it was definitely going to snow the following day, definitely. ‘Sure look at the colour of the sky’. ‘My Mum says it always gets a bit warmer before the snow comes’. Then after school came ‘snow watch’. Running to the window at regular intervals to check for a single snowflake. When I was just falling asleep my brother would come rushing in, ‘It’s snowing’, and we’d stare out into the dark hoping fervently that it would stick.
In the morning we almost knew before opening the curtains, the room was extra bright, there was a stillness, no cars and none of the usual morning busyness outside. Sometimes we could hear shrieks and laughter from the really early birds. Then on with the layers. Tights, tracksuit bottoms and jeans. Polo necks, jumpers, anoraks and wellies. We didn’t have wet gear so after ten minutes we were soaked through! My poor Mum spent the day rotating clothing on the fire guard trying to dry woolly tights and jumpers.
I can remember the big walk to the shops with my Dad’s homemade sledge made from a teatray and a black binliner. The random food we ate, partly because my Mum was using up whatever was in stock, but also because the cold weather calls for comfort food. A bit more stodgy than usual. Snow days were the only days we had dumplings in our soup or a casserole. And there was always a hot dessert. My absolute favourite was hot custard on a slice of jam swiss roll, sticky sweet and warm!
So what was it about those snow days that crystalised the memories so vividly for me. They were certainly alot of fun but I think there’s more to it than that. They are days when we are all forced out of our routine, a bit like Christmas or holidays. We can’t go to work or school and the days take on a different shape. Adults play like children, the normal rules about bedtimes or mealtimes are relaxed a bit. Watching movies in the afternoon or playing board games together, extra special things reserved for these days.
Of course our regular day to day routines are necessary and important. But it’s equally important not to be a slave to them. Otherwise days merge into weeks and before you know it months can pass by without much life being lived at all. So I’m going to take something from these snow days. It’s good to shake up the routine now and then, even abandon it altogether sometimes for no real reason other than the most important one. They will be the days that remain in your little ones’ memories forever.