I have always planned my days and weeks based on the varying prognostications of the weather forecasters. These prophets have the responsibility to correctly predict the future weather conditions and thus alter the activities of those who choose to follow their hypotheses.
I was a child decades before technology offered us instant information -- a time when we watched a forecaster draw on a paper map the wind direction and the swooping curve of the cold front approaching our section of the world. This was long before satellite photography, polar vortexes and arctic oscillators and years before Phil was a celebrity.
Many times Mother Nature altered the expectations for how the weather would move across the country, reminding the educated scientist that he was a mere mortal toying with a greater force beyond his control. But he was the teacher that we followed.
Hearing a hint from the weatherman that a heavy snowfall may come our way escalated excitement among me and my six siblings until we were positive that school would be canceled, even before we witnessed a single flake of snow.
We would take turns at night monitoring the skies for the beginning of the torrent of snow that was sure to begin. We wondered if the weatherman could be wrong this time, as had happened before. Our last resort was the snow prayer.
Oh Mister Weatherman, please be right
Bring lots of snow and bring it tonight
Cover the trees and rooftops and ground
Lay it down softly without making a sound
We were seldom disappointed with the power of the prayer. Morning came bright with the glare off the white blanket that fell while we slept. The official news of school cancellation spread rapidly, and a stampede to the breakfast table ensued. The race was on to be the first to print a foot tread in the new snow. The chaos of seven kids clamoring to find their snow play clothes made Mom wish for only one snow cancellation day each year.
There were snow angels to imprint, forts to build, snowball fights to be won and, of course, a magnificent snowman to create.
We took great pride in building Mr. Snowman. Our neighbor, Jim, had a coal furnace, and he would leave button-sized nuggets of coal on his porch for us on such days. These would be payment for our help months earlier when he had his annual coal delivery and needed help getting the black rocks through his basement window.
Building Mr. Snowman was the climax of our snow day. With the three coal buttons on his white coat and two coal eyes and a carrot for his nose, he became our sentry protecting our home.
By evening, every inch of our yard had been trampled and the lone snowman stood guard over the field of battle. Only the rooftops of houses remained untouched. Our snow-covered clothes were spread across the basement floor to thaw and dry in preparation for the next snowfall.
Mother always toiled in the warm kitchen in anticipation of the hungry army of snow soldiers who would arrive at the dinner table with cherry-colored cheeks while reciting all that happened that day. After dinner, with our toes warmed and our bellies full, we reluctantly found our school books with the realization that school would resume the next day.
Remembering those days has made me aware that I rarely see kids playing in the snow anymore. The fallen snow is untouched days after it has covered yards. I wonder where all of the snowmen have gone. It seems kids don't make them anymore.
Recently, I heard it said that if something doesn't cost money, it can't be any fun. I find it sad for any child to do without both the feel of fresh snow and the use of one's imagination to play in nature's white blanket free of any financial obligation.
For my brothers and sisters and I, when darkness once again came over the land on such days, we would lie in our beds, tired from the day and grateful for the gift of a big snow. We appreciated that the weatherman had been right on target with his forecast.
The previous missed forecasts were forgiven and forgotten. This was the one that counted most, and he came through for us. Thanks, Mr. Weatherman.
Alan Meyers of Robinson, a retired construction superintendent and union carpenter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.