Weather or not?

. January 9, 2013.

Every winter, thousands of Ann Arbor kids go to bed at night with one dream on their minds. As they get into their jammies, brush their teeth and tuck in under the covers, they wish the wish that generations before them wished: “Please let tomorrow be a snow day!”

A peculiar phenomenon I’ve noticed is that many parents also get excited over a potentially cancelled school day. Why this is, I’m not quite sure. After all, it usually means that Mom or Dad have to call in late or miss work because they can’t find anyone to watch the children for the day. Perhaps all of the adult glee is centered on an innate feeling of “getting out of jail free,” so to speak. Most of us can remember back to when we were of school age—the joy we felt when we heard the radio announcer declare, “Ann Arbor Schools are closed.” (In those days, we listened to WAAM or WPGA in A2.) We also can sadly recall the pain and misery we felt hearing the words, “All Ann Arbor schools are open.”

The agony

Maybe “pain and misery” aren’t quite the right words here. What I mean to say is “outrage.” Yes, that describes the feeling much better. As kids, we could never figure out how on earth our school was still open. “There has to be at least four feet of snow on the ground! Chelsea, Saline, Milan, and Dexter are all closed! Why not Ann Arbor!?! How could our teachers do this to us?” (Yes, in those days, we thought that the teachers were responsible for everything. These were the same teachers whom we thought never went home at night, because they lived at the school.)

And, just to rub Ice Melt into the wounds, it seemed to us that the radio announcers took a certain delight in telling us that Ann Arbor Public Schools
were still open.

 “School closings today are as follows: Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Saline, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Po-Dunk School District You Never Heard of, Po-Dunk School District You Have Heard of and Now Hate…”

The whole time, we’re sitting by the radio, “Come on! Say Ann Arbor! Say Ann Arbor!” The radio announcer continued, “Washington D.C. Schools, Miami Schools, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Schools—all closed.” “How come he didn’t say Ann Arbor? Maybe he’ll change his mind. Maybe the memo is underneath his coffee mug. Shhhhh! Wait! He’s speaking again!” “And, Ann Arbor Schools…are OPEN today! Bwahahahahaha!”

In the days of my youth, it really did feel like we were dumped on more than we were given our freedom. For the record, when I say “dumped on,” I mean by snow and by our school district. Why would they keep our schools open? I have a theory. It all has to do with preparation. We were never fully prepared to make snow days happen. Sure, we had a couple of methods to try to work up massive amounts of snow, but somehow, we
often fell short of closing our schools.

The efforts

Most of us tried the basics back then. We would fi rst ask our parents if there was anything they could do: “Can you call the school and tell them that you’ll sue if your son gets frozen into a popsicle, lost in a snow drift?” Then we often included our request in our prayers: “God, I know you probably have a lot more important things to worry about, but I promise I won’t pull the heads off of my sister’s Barbies if you’ll just let tomorrow
be a snow day.” Unfortunately, we just weren’t going about things the right way.

Now, as a father of two daughters, I have learned that there is so much more kids can do to conjure up a snow day. Their state-of-the-art techniques make our attempts seem so primitive. Here’s what my girls have told me works: sleep with a spoon under your pillow and wear your pajamas inside out. I have to attest, they do get more snow days than we used to.

I also learned from the fourth graders in the classroom where I student teach that there are even more tricks: 

Sleep with a spoon under your pillow.

Wear your pajamas inside out AND backwards.

Put a white crayon on your windowsill.

Do the Snow Dance in front of your refrigerator.

Flush ice cubes down the toilet.

What can I say? It’s science.

So here’s to a brand new year full of carefree snow days. Follow the directions above, and you’ll be lazing around the house on a weekday in no time. Just let those school administrators try to stop us now!

Jim Keen is a freelance writer and life-long Ann Arborite. He lives in town with his wife, Bonnie, and daughters, Gabbi (14) and Molly (11). He is the author of Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family (URJ Press). He can be reached at