When I think about snow days in my childhood, I think about sitting in front of the TV, waiting for my school district to show up on the crawl at the bottom with the word “CLOSED”. I think of staying hunkered down all day against blowing and drifting snow, and bitter sub-zero wind chills, and I think of venturing out to shovel or snowblow a foot of powder out of the driveway so my dad could park inside the garage.
College snow days, particularly in Oklahoma, are a little different.
OU closed yesterday due to winter weather, with the decision being announced at 5:00 pm on Tuesday. It wasn’t too surprising, considering we were under a Winter Storm Warning and expectations were for 4-6 inches of snow by midday Wednesday. Oklahoma doesn’t have the capacity to deal with that.
At Elizabeth and my OWL shift Tuesday night, we had our students try and forecast the winter storm for themselves. I was incredibly proud of how they did against a difficult forecast. Bruce, Danya, Henry, and Sterling, all older students, plotted 500 mb maps. Devin, Matthew and Peter, all younger students, plotted the evening Norman sounding and presented the findings to us – one of which was that the “warm nose” we usually see here in Oklahoma for winter weather events was once again rearing its ugly head. We left with the distinct impression that maybe sleet would cut into our snow totals.
I had a 10:30 intramural basketball game, so I was still up at midnight when the heavy sleet began to fall. I opened the window and listened to sleet falling against the apartment until I couldn’t stay awake anymore. When I awoke early the next morning, I walked over to close the still-open window – and was greeted by a snow-covered apartment complex, with large flakes still falling. The scene when I walked outside – quiet, with hardly a footstep around to break up the snow – brought me straight back to my childhood .
Admittedly, there wasn’t much snow on the ground – only 2 inches when I measured. The early sleet had really taken a chunk out of our totals. But still, after four years in Norman, I was willing to embrace 2 inches of snow – maybe not quite as much as native Oklahomas would, but I put aside my cynicism as best as I could.
I spent a quiet morning working my normal shift at the Mesonet remotely – flagging anemometers that had accumulated ice on them and weren’t recording proper wind speeds. When my shift was up at 10:00, I rushed to wake Elizabeth so we could enjoy the day together. Her first reaction was that the day would make a perfect opportunity to break in her new hiking boots, which is basically the perfect glimpse into Elizabeth’s mind.
We walked outside into the wonderland, and she immediately began to build a snowman. Rolling the snowballs was difficult (the snow wasn’t *that* wet and there was really only a bit of it, so we decided to sculpt a small snowman ourselves. It was a cute little guy, and we were able to make do from nearby trees to accessorize him. I named the snowman Bartholomew.
Later on, other people made snowmen near Bartholomew. Somebody even put a scarf on him. It was particularly upsetting to return at the end of the night and see that Bartholomew had lost his head, but that’s how life goes in Oklahoma.
For years, I have wanted to build a blanket fort during a snow day. I’ve done it before, but nobody has ever joined me, and blanket forts without friends are like hot dogs without condiments. They’re just not as fun. James and Bradley were kind enough to volunteer their apartment as tribute, and we organized a group of people to bring blankets to create a large fort. We headed over at about 11:00, with the roads already pretty clear. James made french toast and turkey bacon – thankfully so, because Elizabeth and I had basically no food. Nobody had clothespins for a blanket fort, so I improvised with basically anything available to prop up a blanket – stools, office chairs, a coffee table. The ensuing fort wasn’t the tallest, and it was admittedly a bit crowded for 10 people, but it was homey and it was warm.
Notice the hedgehog blanket on the left side of the image. Elizabeth just recently gave me that blanket, and there was no way I was not going to use it. Also notice the Redd’s in the background. I can’t say that I’d ever previously had a drink inside my blanket fort, but although Wednesday was the first time, I hope it’s not the last. To make matters better, Hannah had her 10-week-old puppy, Oliver, and he was the cutest dog ever.
Bradley, as a native Floridan, wanted to go sledding. We didn’t actually have any sleds available, so a group of us went to Wal-Mart to buy some… but this being Oklahoma, there were none available. We wandered around the store for a while, before Elizabeth and Maci decided to grab a storage tub lid and ask the Wal-Mart employees if they could just buy that. The employees looked at us and said, “Sure, have a nice day. Thanks for coming in.” Thus, we had found our sleds for free (except Bradley. He was charged $2 for his).
The other issue with Oklahoma is that there aren’t really any natural hills – it is the Great Plains, after all. Our solution to that was to park at the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 77, and walk up to the top of the overpass. I was skeptical, particularly when I saw the hill streaked with mud. Literally riding down a muddy on lids? We’d get stuck.
Well, as it turns out, there was just enough snow to make things work. Other students were up there, sledding on everything from real sleds to garbage cans. It didn’t take long for me to feel like a kid again. Of course, from there my ideas got progressively worse. This is the video that I’m still feeling in my lower back two days later:
That big mud track at the end was caused by my stomach.
We were probably on the hill for an hour or so before everyone else got cold and was ready to go. By then, I was caked in mud and out of breath from walking back up the hill against the snow so many times. I was also having the time of my life. Note that Elizabeth is holding my lid, which is significantly muddier:
From there, we headed to Marisa, Jared and Tyler’s apartment to hot tub at The Edge’s pool. The tub could best be described as a “warm” tub, really, but even that feels excellent when you’re outside in 25 degree weather.
Notice that in that image, I have a cup. James was nice enough to bring me hot chocolate, and even nicer to put some rum in it. Yeah, sometimes life can be pretty good. I did feel as though I had to further my own “Midwestern cred” a bit, so I laid down on one of the pool chairs.
The water inside a hot tub is a heck of a lot warmer after you’ve done something like that.
At one point, I told Elizabeth, “I know what we should do for dinner”. I didn’t even have to tell her what it was, because on a snow day everybody needs something warm; something like Tatsumaki, the best ramen place in Norman. We go there an embarrassing amount. Tatsumaki was awesome in accommodating our group of 12, and I got to watch Martin try to use chopsticks, which provided entertainment to go with my miso gyoza ramen. We finished off what had been an incredibly packed day back at The Edge, talking and playing with Hannah’s dog.
I’ve had a lot of snow days in my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever had one where I quite maximized the productivity of the fun like Wednesday’s, though. I think the frenetic pace of the fun was partially due to the fact that in Oklahoma, snow lasts at most for 48 hours after it falls. Contrast that with Michigan, where snow will lie on the ground for weeks and months in the winter. Furthermore, as college seniors, we all had the sense that this might be our last snow day. Something about that made this feel one like it had to be a tribute to all of the prior snow days, and a tribute to a chapter in our lives that felt like it was coming to a close. I sit here writing this conclusion two days later, with my back so sore from sledding that I can barely sit up straight. Six years ago, I wouldn’t have this trouble if I horsed around like that. It’s a reminder that most of the time, you can never get younger. But for one day, one magical snow-shrouded, snowman-making, blanket-fort-building, sled-shenaniganing, hot-tub-hanging, ramen-dining day, we all were transported back to the carefree snow days of the past. Wednesday’s snow day is one that I hope to carry with me wherever life takes me next.