It was somewhere between stuffing my 5-year-old son in three layers of shirts, convincing my 7-year-old daughter that she actually had to put on leggings under her jeans and trying to cram my 1-year-old daughter’s hands into a pair of too-small mittens that my husband had to stop me.
“Lydia, you are going to ruin the snow day if you put one more layer on them,” he told me.
I looked out the window, worried the snow would melt before I could to take a picture of my kids outside — and so we quickly pulled the rain boots on, zipped up the jackets and were out the door.
In the 17 years that I’ve lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I can count on one hand the number of times it’s snowed and the snow actually stuck. It’s like there is this imaginary line drawn somewhere an hour north of Tuscaloosa County. Above the line, it will snow. If you live in Birmingham, you can expect inches of white powder.
But below the line, if you live in Tuscaloosa County or anywhere south, prepare for nothing. Kids will get their hopes up, shoppers will wipe out the store shelves of all bread and milk. Schools will often close. But when it comes to snow on the ground, it’s a rarity in the Black Belt of Alabama.
That’s what made the recent snowfall even more special. My kids only remember playing in snow once before, in 2014, when it snowed at night, but it was gone the next morning. It snowed once in 2013 too, although my kids don’t remember it, likely because it snowed at noon and melted by dinnertime.
But as the snow fell hard on Jan. 5, and as the weather forecast predicted freezing temperatures all weekend, I knew it might be something special: It might be like the snow days of my childhood.
I’m a north Alabama native — where the snow actually sticks at least once a year. As a kid, I have vivid memories of being stuffed into layers of long underwear, sweatshirts and jackets. My mom would wrap our tennis-shoe clad feet in plastic shopping bags, because when you don’t have boots, your feet still have to stay dry. Trying to run around on icy snow isn’t easy in regular shoes, but it’s even more difficult when your feet are covered in slick plastic.
Childhood snow days for me meant sledding down the hills at our neighborhood school with my grandfather, who, as a Minnesota native, was a natural on the sled. Snow days meant doing “wheelies” in a plastic toboggan being pulled behind a Jeep in an empty, icy parking lot - probably not the safest thing in the world, but when you are 13 and it’s a snow day in Alabama, you don’t really think about that kind of stuff. Snow days meant making “snow cream” and drinking apple cider mixed with Red Hot candies. It meant being out of school, being frozen to the bone from being outside all day long and loving every second of it.
And so, last week, I got down my grandfather’s old sled from the attic. There wasn’t enough ice for the metal runners to work that well, but my 7-year-old daughter got a taste for sledding down the one still-icy downhill ice patch in our neighborhood. We built a micro-sized snowman, drank red-hot apple cider, and my 5-year-old son ate two bowls of snow cream. My toddler danced around in the snow — the first time she’d seen it — while my oldest daughter played with neighborhood friends outside making snow angels and having snowball fights until almost dinnertime.
The next day with some of the snow still left, we played outside all morning again. It was probably one of the best weekends we’ve had, and made me wish we’d get snow more often. But, as I considered the thought, I watched our boxer try to eat snow as my toddler toss the powder up the air while squealing. I changed my mind. Snow days in Tuscaloosa are special.
I don’t think I’d want it any other way.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at email@example.com.