January 27, 2013

Maine Observer: Snow days still special for retired teacher

Instead of checking to see if her district has postponed, she has time to bake, read and check out the bird feeder.

It started with the 5 o'clock news. Earlier in the day, my friend had hinted at a snowstorm, and as the afternoon progressed, blue sky succumbed to cloud cover. When I went for my neighborhood walk, although it was still warm (high 30s), you could smell it in the air. Then the evening weather report confirmed it and excitement started to build.

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Why, you might ask? Am I an avid skier? Do I plow snow from driveways as a sideline? Am I a featured artist in an upcoming snow-sculpting competition? No, to all of that. I am a newly retired first-grade teacher. And an official "snow day" will always be special.

In the morning, I woke up early and opened the bedroom curtains. Yes, indeed, snow was falling fast and furious in the darkness. I did not rush to the TV to see if my old school district had postponed -- I had no need, I did not care.

I made myself a big cup of coffee, climbed back into bed with a novel and swathed my upper half with a shawl, glancing up from my reading every now and then to sip my coffee and check out the snow "in the dawn's early light." (How many times had I sung that phrase over the course of 31 years?)

Just as I was thinking it would be nice to eat a little something (was that a line out of "Winnie the Pooh"?), my husband brought me breakfast in bed -- a treat, indeed -- and I savored every bite of fried eggs and potatoes while watching the snow swirl down.

Snow days generally mean a baking day; whatever else may need to happen gets pushed aside. I decided it was the perfect time to try out the new vinegar cake recipe I had clipped from the newspaper, and was soon in the kitchen, which had warmed to my favorite tropical temperature thanks to the woodstove that was cranking away. I put on public radio, pulled out all the ingredients, and the smell of chocolate soon wafted through the house.

By this time, it was all of 9 a.m. I paused and gazed outside to watch the birds mobbing the feeder. I opened the kitchen window and tossed out some old bread, which the blue jays quickly descended upon.

Of course, this brought back memories of the backyard bird unit I taught my first-graders every winter, of some budding ornithologist interrupting reading group to exclaim, "There's an American goldfinch at the feeder!"

(I can't tell you how many field guides those 6-year-olds wore out over the years, and how I never ceased to delight at the use of the whole name when making their announcements. Black-capped chickadee! White-breasted nuthatch! Or -- most frequently -- house sparrow!)

Now it's 10 o'clock and I'm at my computer. Writing is high on my "next life list," and I try to do a little every day. Do I miss teaching? Some parts, obviously. Do I still love snow days? Absolutely -- always have, and always will.

Anne Cyr is a resident of Buxton.


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