I watched the sun set from the window seat of the plane on my flight to Philadelphia last Friday evening. It was the first time I saw the sun go down from the sky, and it was beautiful. The reds and oranges and pinks peaked through the clouds surrounding the plane as the plane trekked through them, shining light through the window and onto my face. I looked down at the ground below me. We were flying low enough to still see the landscape of the ground below—the highways and houses and open fields. And as the sun disappeared further and further down, the colors touched down on the open areas covered in patches of snow and reflected and dispersed around the areas like a ring of light. Right then I noticed there was still snow on the ground up north.
It was cold by the time I got off the plane and out in the Philly night air. I could see my breath in front of me like smoke when I exhaled, waiting for my friend to pick me up at the terminal. As I sat in the back of my friend’s car on the way back to her house from the airport, I noticed Manayunk was still blanketed in snow. We parked a few blocks away from her house down a side street and began the walk there. After almost face planting on three separate occasions from stepping on patches of hidden ice, I got a little frustrated.
“I can’t believe you guys still have snow,” I said. “This is ridiculous.”
“How long have you been away from home?” my friend said. “It’s January in Philly. You should know we have snow and will still continue to get it. At least classes get cancelled.”
For the rest of the walk back to her house I remembered snow days at home as a kid. We didn’t get them too often every winter, but we got quite a few of them over the course of my childhood. And I remember most of them because it was a celebration—not only a day off from school, but also a day for pure playful bliss in the snow.
Most of these mornings started out the same way. I would wake up an extra hour early for school and look out the window and see snow covering the yard, the driveways, cars and sidewalks. Untouched snow. Then I’d look at the sky and see that more snow was continuing to fall. I’d get back in bed and wait another half hour for either my mom or dad to come in and tell me school’s been canceled. But as I got a little older, I got ahead of the game and took matters into my own hands. I couldn’t wait that long for news anymore. I went downstairs and turned on the TV to the local channel and long waited for the name of my school to appear on the bottom of the screen under snow closings.
I’d always be surprised when I’d see it, even though I knew school would be closed. I’d jump off the couch and wait for my mom to bring my brother’s and my snowsuits down from the attic. We’d spend a solid twenty minutes bundling up for the occasion. Those suits were double insulated and made equipped for long playing hours out in the cold weather. We’d put on three pairs of socks under our snow boots, gloves with each individual finger for building and hats and scarves to cover our heads and necks.
I remember one time in particular. My four siblings and I spent the whole morning building an igloo out in the front yard for our dog. We thought she’d be cold out there in the snow, without a coat and all. So we built her a little house, even though my parents argued that she really was only outside for maybe ten minutes at a time. But we didn’t care. That igloo was unbreakable. We got called in for lunch against our will, and when we emerged back outside, our two cousins were getting out of the car. It was time to go sledding.
We went up to Fifteenth Street to the beginning of the boardwalk. That was the best ramp on the whole boardwalk to slide down. It was the widest, and we liked to believe it was the steepest. We spent hours there together sliding down the same ramp the same way, but we had a ball. Even more so when our both our dads showed up to join. We stayed and watched the sun go down across the island over the bay before retiring back home for a late dinner accompanied by hot chocolate and a family movie on the couch. I’d fall asleep on the couch, reliving the entire day’s activities in my head while simultaneously trying not to doze off. But I eventually would, and when I’d open my eyes the next morning, I’d pray there’d be another snow day so I could continue the fun.