Geri-Antics: Element of Surprise

Published 8:31 am Wednesday, January 12, 2022

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I find myself using the phrase ‘In my day’ far more often than I used to; but such reflections on the good old days is somewhat comforting, and perhaps the telling of them gives even the younger generation a warm fuzzy feeling.

I used to be more adept at keeping pace with technology. Being in the workforce demanded that I do so. But since I retired nearly five years ago, I admit that many technological advances have gone unnoticed of late. In fact, I’m increasingly discovering that technology, while somewhat capable of predicting the future, has robbed us of the element of surprise.

Kentucky is experiencing its first real snowstorm today and that has rendered me nostalgic.

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Last night, my daughter, who works in the school system, told me that authorities had already declared today an NTI day. She knew before she went to bed last night that a snowstorm would begin at precisely 10 AM today and that snowfall amounts would likely total between 2 and 8 inches (depending on the area of the state) before it concludes tonight. She knew before she even put the children to bed that the household wouldn’t have to wake up before daylight and get ready for school.

I thought about that for a minute. In my day, we were thrilled to wake up in the morning before dawn to find freshly fallen snow. The snow glimmered like diamonds beneath the street lights. Only footprints left by the big black galoshes worn by the newspaper carrier or the milkman could be seen.on the walkway from the street to our front door. If snow was still falling, those indentations were often covered by the time we woke up again at a more godly hour.

Almost all snowfalls ranged from 2-4 inches back in the fifties. But even the weathermen had no tools to predict when or if snow was coming, except to look to the skies. The accuracy of their predictions was often less than 50%. Farmers boasted a better rate of accuracy. In fact, it became a running joke that if the weatherman predicted sunny skies, you should take an umbrella when heading outside.

Technology now has advanced to the point where the weather can be accurately predicted as much as a week to 10 days in advance. They tell us what the high and low temperature for any given day will be, what percentage of precipitation we can expect, and in what amounts.

As a school girl, awakening to see snow and sitting beside the radio listening to the long list of school closings read was both an anxious time and one which was either exciting or disappointing, depending on the outcome.

I grew up in town at a time when the city was divided into two school districts — city and county. In fact, a small side street between my house and my friend’s was the dividing line.

I went to city schools. My best friend next door went to county schools.

The rule of thumb for canceling city schools dictated that if public transportation was running (and they always were), city schools remained open.

You see there were no school buses for city schools. We rode public transportation and if those buses were able to get us to our destination, we had school. We used tokens and punch cards to pay for a week at a time to travel on public transportation.

City school kids rode on buses along with adults who were traveling to their jobs downtown and the service workers who worked in homes across town.

County schools had traditional yellow school buses. Their routes took them far out into rural areas and on farms. The roads they were required to travel were often impassable and schools were usually closed, sometimes for entire weeks.

On the rare occasion when my school was closed, I spent the majority of the day outside, playing with my county school friends. Before I went out and desecrated the fresh, clean, white bounty, Mom would gather a big mixing bowl full of snow. She flavored it with vanilla or sometimes Hershey’s chocolate syrup and fresh cream and put it in the freezer for an evening treat.

Then all the kids in the neighborhood were turned out to begin a day of fun.

You weren’t allowed to go in and out and track snow all over the house. You only went back inside if you were either half-frozen or needed to answer nature’s call. In fact, if nature called too frequently (which required your Mom to get you in and out of the horrible snowsuit more than one or two times, you might not get to go back out at all. ‘Holding it’ was a major skill.

Oh the fun we had — sledding down hills, building snowmen, having snowball fights with the neighbor kids!

When I did go inside for a hot lunch of soup and toasty grilled cheese sandwiches, Mom had the oven on low so while I sat in my long-johns warming up my insides, she would slide my wet and frozen outerwear into the oven to thaw and keep me comfy for round #2 outside.

By the time I reached Junior High (middle school), my parents were the only ones who were up at 6 AM to hear the school closings. I waited in my warm bed beneath a mountain of quilts with my eyes tightly closed, to keep out the harsh reality of morning. If I wasn’t awakened, I slept in until noon — a less climatic revelation, yet none the less appreciated.

Knowing that school is canceled before the snow even begins to fall has its benefits for sure. Having the ability to make plans the night before is invaluable. Not having to set the alarm is a luxury.

I now realize that when schools are closed for any reason, federal funding is lost for that day. That’s why school districts have now built a certain number of NTI (Non-Traditional Instruction) days into the yearly calendar/budget.

When administrators determine the necessity of an NTI day(s) students can log onto the laptop (provided to them by the school) from their homes and attend virtual classes. The district is funded for that day. I get it.

But I’m not so old that I don’t say, Where’s the fun in that? What’s the point in having a gorgeous snow day such as the one that’s occurring outside my window, when you have to spend it online doing classwork, studying, and sitting on a computer all day?

Wait — that’s exactly what I’ve been doing while writing this column. I think I’ll close now and go outside. I’ll let the snowflakes fall onto my tongue, and make snow angels, and snow cream, and….nevermind. At my age, I could break a hip.

I’ll make a cup of cocoa with marshmallows and just watch Mother Nature’s handiwork.

Stay safe, my Geri-Antics.

Geri-Antics is contributed by Anne C. Carmichael, author & freelance journalist.