My friend Jim called me yesterday on his way to pick up some last-minute essentials.
Both of us had waited to get groceries for the upcoming snowstorm, as we never needed to in previous years. We both live in Manhattan, and in the past, it was never a problem to get dinner, regardless of the weather.
Now, in the COVID era, we realized not a moment too soon that we might be shit out of luck if we didn’t get those last-minute items.
We spent the afternoon call reminiscing about snow days we had when we were young. Jim and I have a decent-sized age difference between us, so his memories involve the radio, listening to the listing of school closures being recited.
He fondly told me the story of the one morning when he awoke before all of his siblings, showered, and ate breakfast, only to be on his way out the door when his mother asked, “are you sure you have school today?”
He hadn’t noticed the heavy blanket of newly fallen snow on the ground outside, and he rushed to the radio, only to make the discovery that his school was closed, and a whole day of euphoric possibility lay before him.
I watched my school closing listings on TV. They ran them on the bottom of the screen in alphabetical order.
“I remember you’d have to go through the whole list,” I said, “and there were so many fucking ‘OUR LADY’S’”
“It’s obvious that you’re not Catholic,” Jim laughed.
“But seriously,” I said. “The OUR LADY’S!!!”
These memories are precious for me, watching the school listings change from “2-hour delay” to “CLOSED.” Sitting at home, watching daytime television, maybe even going outside to poorly build a snowman that would inevitably melt in five hours.
I cherish these memories, for however simple they may be.
Another friend of mine called me this morning and mentioned that his nieces and nephews were so bummed out because they don’t get snow days anymore. We have “remote learning.”
He reminisced on his own childhood, and the memories he had on such days.
Even now, as I scroll through social media, I see most people my age “taking a snow day.” People have eggnog, photos in front of the Christmas tree, selfies in their pajamas, and videos of themselves outside, enjoying the first snowfall.
For all of the shit this year has brought us, the snow day has rejuvenated a lot of the joy that has been lost.
It’s cruel to rob kids of a snow day because it taught us a very important life lesson:
That it’s OK to take a break.
It’s OK to not be grinding every minute of every day. This whole year has brought so many of us closer to things that are really important in our lives: our health and our families, just to name two.
I’m not going to spend six hours scouring my bookshelf for citations with why Americans are overworked. You already know that. Unlike every country in the world, we have no official leave or paid vacation. We work around the clock, constantly, tirelessly.
People don’t know how to pause.
They let their health get away from them, falling into self-abusive patterns of escape; they drink too much, zone out on Netflix binges, and are popping chemical anti-depressants like candy.
They don’t exercise mindfulness, they don’t take a minute to just be present — with their families, their children, or their spouses. They work all the time.
We work all the time.
Why is health such a popular trend, at any time, but particularly now? Because people don’t know how to manage their health. They don’t know how to not immerse every facet of themselves into business, grinding forward for some imaginary prize they think will eventually come to them later in life.
They build capitalistic empires they’ll never enjoy because their behaviors will trigger genes that will give them cancer at 50.
Constantly grinding forward is not conducive to overall well-being.
People need to pause. They need to take time to stop, look around, enjoy, and relax.
A snow day taught us that as kids. When we were stressed from three or four months of school, all of a sudden, it would snow, and we got a break.
We’d take a day, watch Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee (RIP Regis, btw,) and The Price is Right.
We’d eat snacks, play in the yard, maybe take a nap, refresh, and recharge.
The snow day taught us the importance of “self-care” even before “self-care” was a thing. It subconsciously taught us that stopping for a break is good.
That’s sage at a young age — the knowledge that stopping for a break is good.
Kids have lost a lot this year. One of the most emotional moments of my 2020 was on a run by the river, seeing a graduate in her cap and gown, all alone save for one family member taking photos of her. I clapped and said “congratulations,” almost crying.
“Thank you!” she said, her face lighting up.
I remember the emotion of graduating from high school so well. So many people this year didn’t get to have that emotion. It was taken from them.
I bring this up because knowledge isn’t always about the things we read in books. There are experiences and rites of passage that also cultivate our comprehensive formal education.
A snow day is one of those things.
I find it cruel to force a body of educators to, at a moment’s notice, learn new science (remote learning,) execute it, and then get backlash from parents about how they did it poorly.
Then, in a few months’ time, force many of those same people to return to an environment that proved itself a spreading ground for a potentially deadly virus. Then, when people started getting sick, remove those people from that same environment, all the while churning about toxic rhetoric, political upheaval, and uncertainty.
And then, for the fucking cherry on top, rob those people of a coveted break that would do wonders for their mental and spiritual health.
We have it all backward and have for some time now.
It’s cruel to rob kids of a snow day. It’s important for them, and our courageous educators who have put themselves in the line of fire for ten months.