When did snow lose its magic? Last week, when a friend told me it was going to snow, I responded with, “Oh God. Seriously?”
When did I get like that?
In the suburbs of New York City where I grew up, snow was the most exciting thing that could happen to a kid, even more exciting than summer. Summer was great, but you always knew when it was coming. It didn’t have that surprise element.
Snow, on the other hand, could be there unexpectedly in the morning, and snow in the morning meant one of three things: 1) I was still going to school (everyone, even parents, seemed to be upset with this outcome); 2) There was a delay (a two-hour was better than a one-hour); or 3) There was no school, and, no matter what stood in my way, I was going sledding.
Snow days were such a wonderful surprise when I was young. I never thought about the fact that my parents had to snow-blow the driveway and salt the sidewalk, because it was always done before I woke up. All I thought about was which of my friends would be able to get to my house (I lived in the center of our 1.8 square mile town) and which of their cool sleds they would be bringing. (I always called Liam because he had the Sno-Tube.)
There is a big hill on the side of my house and we all used to do a few warm-up runs there and then walk three quarters of a mile uphill to the local golf course. By the time I arrived at 10:00 a.m., there were always fifty other kids there and we had to squeeze our way in to get onto the double hill, featuring a 45˚ natural launch pad, or the suicide hill, which had a 70˚ incline that took fifteen minutes to ascend after sledding to the bottom.
So many of my childhood memories take place on those hills. There was the time my twin sister and I forgot to tell my family friend Hannah to aim left on the double hill. She was then catapulted into the air and landed headfirst in a tree-trunk (uninjured, but very shaken). In seventh grade, I had my first boy-girl hug with my “boyfriend” Joey after a day’s worth of close contact on my six-person toboggan.
In high school, snow days were still great, but they mostly consisted of me catching up on homework. Occasionally, I’d convince my younger brother and sister to lend me snow pants for twenty minutes so that I could walk to rent a movie. I remember being glad for the snow day, but not so much for the snow.
But snow no longer means relief from school. It means that someone has erected the Great Wall of China between me and where I need to be. And then, to make matters worse, they have covered the road in salt so that I have walk through slush and turn whatever shoes and pants I’m wearing entirely white.
I don’t know when it happened, but last week I realized that I now hate everything about snow. I hate fresh snow, day-old snow, rock salt, slush, and the dirty black snow that lines the streets.
I’ve been thinking, for a couple of days now, about what part of snow actually irritates me. It came to me the other day while I was at a deli buying cheese. The woman checking me out had her son with her. He was young – third grade, he told me – and he asked me what grade I was in. I had to do the math. You know it’s not good when you have to do the math. “Sixteenth,” I said, “I’m in my last year of college.”
He was intrigued in that way that younger kids always are by college kids. “What’s your favorite subject?” I asked.
“Gym,” he answered.
“I was never any good at that one,” I responded.
“Well... is girls a subject?” He smiled at me.
“It can be,” I answered, “Why, do you excel in that one?”
“Well, I’m not sure,” he pondered, “Maybe?”
That’s when I realized – I hate snow because it reminds me that I will never be that young again. It reminds me that gym will no longer be a subject I have to study. From now on, surprises won’t often come my way. And saddest of all, my days of being immune from my responsibilities are over, because my snow days are long gone.