By Anne T. Donahue
I thought so hard about writing something that has nothing to do with winter or with snow, but then taking the garbage out became my work break this evening (because I procrastinated, not because I’m hustling, believe me) and being bombarded with weather validated my initial instinct: we must reclaim the snow day. It is the only semblance of joy we have left. At least during the winter.
I’ll be honest: I am never truly happy with the outdoors unless it’s the perfect type of warm that allows me to wear whatever outfit I choose. Come the first heat wave in May, I’m ready to declare myself dead, and by the dog days of summer, my entire personality of that of someone who is profoundly unhappy. The fall, while beautiful, signals the end of handleable climate, and the winter – despite the holidays – makes me wonder what’s made me so weak, considering generations before all of us simply lived their lives, weather be damned.
But remember being young? Carefree? Full of zest and zip and whatever our teachers begged us to tone down until recess? Growing up, buses being cancelled due to snow was the glorious justification for doing absolutely nothing because there wasn’t a point. And while one year, my mom made me go to school because my grandpa offered to drive me, myself and the two other students who showed up spent the day watching movies and listening to Big Shiny Tunes while drawing for “art class.” (Read: our teachers could not care less what we did, so we were eventually led to the gym for an afternoon of dodgeball.)
Snow days were joyous! Weather was exciting! And now we are adults who have to face the realities of existing alongside the reminder that nothing gold shall stay, and frankly, I refuse. So, in the name of reclaiming any semblance of happiness rooted in a beautiful moment we can’t control, I’ve begun living by my guide to enjoying snow days as an adult. And yes, it must be soundtracked by Big Shiny Tunes.
Step one: complain
I love to complain. I love to complain almost as much as I love talking about how much I love to complain (a lot!), and I believe firmly that nothing bonds strangers like talking shit about the weather. Do you know how much more fun the smallest, most inconsequential actions are while making fun of winter’s wrath? We’re not “all in this together” a lot anymore (shout-out to the shocking differences between, say, CEOs pocketing billions and, well, the rest of us), but when we’re all shovelling, scraping the car, walking against the wind while holding three large bags of garbage, we are truly united. I love my neighbours, but I love them even more when we’re looking up at the sky and screaming “WHY” in unison. In that moment, we are family. And anyone who dares say, “Oh, I love this!” has proven they can never truly belong.
Step two: celebrate the kids
I don’t have children, and I wish for none. But goddamn it, when my wee neighbours use my backyard for a wide, open space reserved for snowball fights and snowmen and whatever else kids like to do in the snow, my heart is full. They’re so happy! They’re running around out there! They’re living, honey, in a way I cannot and never will! Snow days are a reminder that somewhere deep in our repressed memories, we once experienced unharnessed joy. Maybe we’ll feel it again! Until then, I will live vicariously through the recognition that not everyone on this planet is as jaded as me and my cats.
Step three: stay home
This is an option only if you have a job that allows you to stay home, which should not include being a bank teller (like I was once) whose boss wouldn’t let her leave early and whose car almost sank six times on the way home because it was a blizzard and I lived 25 km away. But I digress.
If you can stay home, stay home. Why would you go outside if you didn’t have to? And frankly, why would you do anything even remotely productive if you didn’t have to? It’s snowing! It’s cold! These factors have nothing to do with sitting in front of your computer, but who cares? Computers were a one-per-family treat once upon a time, so why not return to the splendor of not being allowed in the computer room until after dinner? Exactly.
And so help me, whatever-higher-power-that-exists, if you go anywhere where people who had to go into work are working, you extend a kindness typically reserved only for Christmas morning. These people are better than we are. It is our responsibility to know this (and if the situation calls for it, do a coffee run or extend some semblance of kindness I beg of you). These are rules.
Step four: winter-wear
I absolutely do not mean this as a style guide. This is not a call to put on your fanciest coats and boots and thrive amidst the falling flakes. Instead, it’s a call to comfiness. On snow days, I dress like it’s the second week of lockdown and I have just discovered the joy of sweatpants and mismatched outerwear. I don’t care if I have to go someplace, I don’t care if I have to walk out of my house and be seen by every person who lives on my street. Snow days mean we get a gold star for simply existing, and I refuse to exist in an outfit that makes me feel confined or cold. I want fleece. I want large boots. I want a coat to large it threatens to consume me and everybody I hold dear. This is a chance to wear exactly what you want and dare anybody to ask what’s wrong with you. The answer? A lot! But also, it’s a snow day so lighten up, fashion police.
Step five: junk food
I’m sure somewhere there is a person reading this who has spent the better part of today making a delicious and nutritious stew, but that person isn’t me. Instead, I am a person who looked outside and decided I would have leftover chicken wings for breakfast. I chased it with chocolate pudding. I’ve consumed more tea and apple cider than is necessary for any living human, and I treated myself to a large glass of Kool-Aid because I can. Because it’s a snow day, and when I’d stay home on snow days as a child, my friends and I would subsist on junk food because our parents were just over all of it. It’s awful outside. My energy can be fuelled only by high-fructose corn syrup and the taste of cookie dough-topped brownie (which I also ate today).
Step six: stop and listen
Like, actually listen. It’s so quiet outside. It’s quiet. It’s quiet in a way no other time of year allows for, and frankly, that shit is magical. As a child I firmly believed that the silence of winter weather was exactly the recipe for the appearance of some magical literary horse (thank you, strange medieval unit we had in grade five) and tonight as I took a break from gasping alongside the garbage, I stopped and listened to the nothing. It was incredible. It was freeing. It was soothing. It was just enough of a moment to make me feel very small and insignificant, but in very calming and lovely way. Did I see a magical horse? I did not. But I certainly saw my cat trying to eat the snow off the front stoop, which shattered the silence immediately. (You try being pensive when you see a tiny cat treat himself to an iced treat.)
Step six: cardio!
I’m just kidding, my dad and I went on a winter walk one afternoon and both got depressed because we realized how many months left of snow we still had to face. Please go back inside.
Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!