Ah! The snow day. Something every school-age child prays for. So far this academic year, winter has not disappointed. And it is only December. As of this writing, we are into Day 2 of school closures. Teachers and staff enjoy the day by indulging in 10 extra minutes of sleep and a second cup of coffee. But for them, the cozy moment is suddenly disturbed by the realization that they may have to pay the piper in the spring. Alas! Too many days spent in flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers this winter could result in the need to extend the school year well into June. Good God! At this rate, summer may not begin until the 4th of July! And with that, the joy melts away faster than the marshmallow in their hot chocolate. So it goes for teachers and staff.
But not so for the kids. Fortunately, they do not think that far ahead. They live blissfully and blessedly in the moment. And for them, a snow day is a freebie. A gift. Pure and simple. The only question is… how to spend it.
Thinking back to my own school snow days, I remember all it took for my fellow NDP chums and me to put a plan in play was one or two well-placed phone calls. And then, with the tug of a boot and the zip of a jacket, we’d set off on foot through the barely plowed and eerily empty streets of Baltimore, often meeting up halfway between our respective houses, to enjoy the day outside. Together. We were giddy with options. We could spend the day walking from one friend’s house to another. We could go ice-skating on the Homeland Lakes. Watch the boys play football in Cedarcroft. Build a snowman in Sherwood Gardens in Guilford. Or go sledding. And with sledding, there were even more options. We could sled on Flexible Flyers, “flying saucers,” trash can lids, or pieces of cardboard. We could sled down the streets of Homeland, the alleys of Rogers Forge, or – everybody’s favorite – the Big Hill at Baltimore Country Club in Roland Park. At the end of a fun day spent outdoors, we would inevitably end up at someone’s house where we’d leave all our wet clothes in a pile by the kitchen door and indulge in a cup of creamy hot chocolate. I’d like to say, “we sipped our chocolate by the side of a warm fire” but the truth is, that’s not how it went. It’s not that we didn’t have fireplaces back then. We did. But the fireplace was always located in a rather formal living room, which was, for some crazy reason, positively off-limits to kids. Only the adults used the living room, and from a kid’s point of view, there seemed to be very little “living” going on in there. Unless, of course, you came from one of the bigger, Catholic families, in which case, “life” spilled over into every room available. Even then, though, most of the time we were all banished to the “club cellar” where there was no fireplace, but there was a record player, some comfy, less formal furniture, a ping pong table, and – best of all – a closet full of every board game imaginable. Afternoon would fade into evening and we’d be invited to dinner. “What’s one or 10 more?” was every mother’s mantra. After dinner, we’d suit up (the wet clothes were dry by now, having been picked up and hung over a hot radiator by someone) and head home. We’d walk each other as far as we could, before going our separate ways, navigating the last few blocks alone. The streets were quiet, the sky was star filled, and home was welcoming. Chances are, as you climbed the stairs to your house, you’d encounter some kids who were just leaving – friends of your brothers or sisters – heading back to their own homes. My mother had fed them like my friend’s mom had fed me. The universe was in harmonic, cosmic balance.
All of this was possible, of course, because back then, in the late ’60’s and early 70’s, at least half of the Notre Dame student body lived within 4 square miles of each other. You knew everyone’s zip code by heart. As far as you were concerned, there were only 3: 21212, 21210, and 21218. Unless, of course, you counted Towson, where school was located. And then you’d add 21204 to your list. You’d heard of Timonium and Lutherville, of course. You knew some of your classmates lived in those places. And, in my class, at least one person lived as far away as Monkton. But back then, a majority of NDP families lived in the city. You could pretty much walk to anyone’s house and be there within 10 or 15 minutes.
Time, zip codes, and just about everything else has changed. NDP’s zip code today is 21286, not 21204. And if you go through the NDP directory you will see that only a small minority of NDP families currently resides in the city. Today, the NDP community populates a wide swath that covers not only Baltimore City and County, but also Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll, and Harford Counties. NDP students live in places like Churchville, Phoenix, Baldwin, Bel Air, Forest Hill, Fallston, Ellicott City, Columbia, Westminster, White Marsh, Sykesville, Abingdon, Havre de Grace, Perry Hall, Owings Mills, Catonsville, and Jarrettsville. They are not – by any stretch of the imagination – within walking distance of each other. Their parents commute for work to Baltimore and Washington, Annapolis and Frederick, Bel Air and Rockville, Towson and Hunt Valley, and everywhere in between. Geographically speaking, it is a far more diverse student body than in my day. And while it does not (entirely) reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity that is so important to NDP and to which it is committed, it is interesting nonetheless. Because there are unique differences in each of these areas of the state and those differences cannot help but enlighten, educate, and broaden the horizons of every NDP student.
But how do they get to one another’s house? And what do they do on a snow day? When you can’t necessarily get out of your own driveway, much less your own neighborhood. Do they stay connected by text and cell phone? Do they play virtual games together? Do they play video games alone? (Do they even know what a board game is?) Do they go outside at all? If so, do they play with kids in the neighborhood who attend other schools but who are also off for the day? A rich and enlightening experience in its own right, to be sure. Or… perhaps, undaunted, they hop in their mom’s all wheel drive bruiser of an SUV and fearlessly head 10 or 20 miles in any given direction to meet up, after all, with some of their NDP buddies.
Wherever they end up, I hope they spend some time outdoors and take in the beauty of the snow. A beauty that blankets the land and blurs boundary lines. And makes us remember why everyone loves a snow day.
Students, teachers, staff: Let Bluenote know what you did on your days off. Send notes. Send pictures! We’ll post them! Next week: An interview with a very special NDP student. …Weather permitting!