In wintertime, the news is filled with school closings due to snow and cold weather. Kids squeal with delight, “Snow Day! Yayy!” for not having to go to school while parents groan thinking how to adjust their busy schedules and deal with kids at home. Winter on Mackinac Island is different. One way or another, everyday is a snow day. We welcome the snow and lots of it! The difference is that there really is no snow day when the Mackinac Island School is closed for snow and cold, otherwise, it would be closed all winter.
In winter, school days start off like any other families living on the mainland with school starting at 8:20 am. But once we leave our houses, things immediately change to the Islanders way of life. We’re never quite sure what the weather will be from one minute to the next so we all have our closets ready for every weather condition. Instead of getting on a bus or starting our car, we start our snowmobiles, put on our snowmobile helmets and brave the cold. We don’t complain about having to put on all of our gear, even when it’s – 18 degrees with wind chill because the colder it is and more snow we have, the happier we are! That’s what we call Pure Mackinac! Our first snow rarely sticks, so one day we could be riding our snowmobiles, the next day, walking a mile or more to school and the next day riding our bikes in the cold, or freezing rain. Island kids have to allow extra time to get their cold weather gear off once they get to school so they’re ready for class when the bell rings.
When a child is sick at school and needs to come home, they either ride their bikes home, or are transported home on snowmobiles either by themselves or a parent who comes to pick them up, even if they have the flu and fever of 102 degrees. That’s what we call “tough love” on Mackinac. The school is great on the Island. We know every teacher, their families, where they live, and get progress reports daily so parents are always informed. Some of the most fun parts of a Mackinac winter, is sledding down a once busy street, throwing snowballs with no worries of hitting a tourist, climbing trees, walking on the ice and just enjoying our winter, Island home. We also wait with eager anticipation for the ice to get rock solid and form what we call, The Ice Bridge. That’s when we’re no longer an island, but are connected to the mainland by thick ice. Then, the real fun begins!
But that’s another story so until next time……..SNOW DAY! YAY!!!
George Piliouras for The Chippewa Hotel