Author shoveling snow in upstate New York.

UDLAP Note: In this essay, Stephanie Schmidt describes the strange phenomenon (to us) of snow days in New York–when school days were cancelled because of winter storms. As Mexicans, of course, many of us have never even seen snow! So that fact makes snow a cool and kind of unreal experience; it is something we have only seen in movies.  Even though this essay is about the weather, however, we think Stephanie Schmidt goes much deeper. Her essay addresses nostalgia, when she thinks about snow during her childhood. It explains the different reactions between children and adults during snow days. Schmidt distinguishes the lost of innocence someone experiences growing up, using the analogy of snow. 

As Mexicans, again, we can say that we don’t get snow days in most parts of the country. We have no such thing. For us snow is something almost magic-like. Its fleeting and ephemeral and so clean! We get a lot of hail, though. Sometimes it hails so much it looks like snow, but the texture is not similar at all. If you get caught up in a hail storm you might get hurt, especially in Puebla. The seasons in Mexico are not as obvious but the weather can be equally violent and unpredictable. Yet people think Mexico only has tropical or desert-like weather. We think its funny that stereotypes are not only about people, but also about things like weather.  And we do have a similar tradition to the spoon under the pillow. Here, we stick a knife in the ground to stop it from raining. We don’t know what cutlery has on controlling the weather, but is interesting to know we are not the only country taking advantage of them.

 

I was born and raised in New York and nothing was better than hearing the words “snow day.” Every winter, usually in the months of December or January, we would usually have at least one snow day where some businesses and schools would shut down for the day because of heavy snowfall.

The excitement would usually start the day before; with the announcement of snow on the weather channel. When I was just a child, we would all get together and discuss the possibility of this heavy snow and school cancelation. There were some strange rituals we would perform thinking that it would guarantee a snow day. The only one I can remember was to sleep with a spoon under your pillow the night before. The spoon, I think, represented a shovel for clearing out snow. The spoon trick never worked, in fact I think it scared any possible snow storm away. While we children would be excited, adults would be feeling the complete opposite. Adults would rush out the night before and gas up their cars and buy out any non-perishable foods. Store shelves would be obliterated; no more cans of soup, no more bread, no more peanut butter, no more bottles of water. Every adult had the same fear of being snowed in. Of course, it never happened.

I used to wake up early on a snow day, the first thing I would do would be to listen to the radio because most stations announced school and business closings. I would lie in bed with anticipation, waiting for them to call my school district. It was one of the most exciting feelings when you knew you had the day off. I would open the window in my room and a rush of brisk icy air would drift in. Outside, the world was white and extremely quiet except for the sound the occasional snow plow pushing down the street. Some towns had entire fleets of snow plows while others, like mine, would rely on their citizens. My neighbor had a large plow shovel that he would attach to the front of his pick-up truck. For that day his truck was transformed into a snow plow.

When I was younger, I would spend the entire day outside playing with my neighbors in the snow, but when I was older, I was given a shovel and put to work. The year I began to shovel  was the year that we had a snowstorm that delivered over three feet of snow. Everyone would be outside digging their cars out of snow and scraping it off their driveways. When a person was finished shoveling their property, they would go help a neighbor. It was everyone’s duty to help  clear off the elderly couples driveway. A simple “thanks” would be exchanged, there was no big fanfare, it was what you were supposed to do.

While life seemed to stop for those in school during a snow day, it did not for those who  have jobs, especially those who worked in retail. A 10 minute drive to work can easily turn into a 45 minute one when icy, slippery snow is involved. It can be even longer when the vehicle that is being driven is not equipped to drive in the snow. This made waking up extra early extremely important during snowy days. On the bright side though, the workday itself would be  straightforward and smooth since the store would be empty; most people thought it was foolish  to drive in bad weather, but then again store managers and owners are not like most people.

Snow days usually only lasted one day since the purpose of them was to keep people off the road and give the town a chance to clear the roads. It was rare when an extra snow day was given. The next day, once everyone was back in school, everything would fall back into its normal routine. Sometimes, It would feel like a snow day had not even occurred; maybe that is why they felt so special?