My son was born in Pennsylvania. We moved to California when he was six weeks old, so he has no memories of his first home, and only a dim understanding of what snow is as we have yet to take our kids to the mountains during the winter. He’s five and has just started school. He’s loving it so far, but, as he gets older and understands more, I wonder how he’ll react when he learns he could have had snow days.
I’m a California girl, born and raised. I never knew snow days existed. I grew up watching TV shows that took place back East and always saw high schools that were seemingly contained to a single building. I was a little confused when I started high school and saw separate buildings. Since it doesn’t snow here, there was no reason to have enclosed schools. I didn’t experience a snow day until I was in graduate school in Pennsylvania. Hence why my son was born in that state.
Over this past summer, as our son was about to start Kindergarten, my husband and I wondered if our son would be mad at us for denying him snow days. Having been raised in California, I never had a day off due to weather. It’s not really normal around here to do so. After all,we have hot days and once in a while it might be pouring rain. I expected I would be taking my kids to school every day without fail, unless they were sick.
And then our microcosm burst into flames. Literally.
Growing up, I liked to say we didn’t have the four seasons. We had rain and fire seasons, with the latter seemingly lasting most of the year. Winters made me nervous. The rain made me nervous. Everyone will say California needs the rain. We’re in a never-ending drought, so the more rain, the better.
No. The more rain, the higher the fire risk.
See, the more rain there is, the more green stuff there is. It gets hot here starting as early as March. The hotter it is, the sooner the heat starts to evaporate all that water, the drier all that green stuff becomes. One spark and whoosh. It’s all in flames. Add the dreaded Santa Ana winds that come every fall and winter, and it can make for some deadly and devastating fires. So, no, rain isn’t always a good thing. Especially to me. I’m scared silly of fires. I get nervous just turning on a gas stove and lighting birthday candles.
I grew up in the middle of the suburbs. There wasn’t a whole lot of vegetation. My home was never in danger of going up in flames. I instead watched smoke and ash fall and the skies turn brown and orange. At school, I hurried from one class to the next. But now I sometimes feel like I live on the edge of Hell. Last year, we moved to L.A., but not anywhere near downtown. No, we live not too far away from where there’s a lot of vegetation. I hope you know where I’m going with this.
Last winter, we got a lot of rain. We got lucky it didn’t start to get hot until June. We were able to admire the greenery for awhile, and then it quickly turned brown. Now the Santa Anas are moving through more often. It’s hot and dry with very low humidity and high temperatures and winds that have been reaching 50 mph or more. Perfect conditions for fires.
I don’t want to pass my terror of fires on to my kids. I’ve tried to stay logical and calm when they’ve been breaking out. Our big one so far has been the Saddle Ridge fire just north of where we live. The end of last week saw excellent conditions for fires. On Thursday, four broke out in our general area alone. We were blanketed in brown and orange. We saw a distant brown haze quickly overcome us, probably within 2 hours after it had started despite being miles away.
The school district was sharply criticized for keeping the majority of the schools open the day after the Saddle Ridge fire broke out. It was smoky and hazy and, clearly, the kids should not have had to go to school. My son’s school was open, but they went onto a minimum day schedule and parents were given the option of picking up their kids early.
This time, with the Saddle Ridge still burning, another large fire burning a little northeast of it, and a third uncomfortably close but still some miles away, the district closed all schools in the area. Nothing quite like receiving a call at 5:50 am, the third such call in 12 hours, telling us the schools were closed.
So, my son won’t ever get snow days unless he decides to attend a college in a place that receives snow. But it looks like fire days aren’t out of the question. Come back on Friday to see how I (sort of) managed to keep my two kids busy for part of the morning.