My cell phone rang. Seconds later, my wife’s rang. “This is really bad,” she said. When our phones ring in quick succession before seven o’clock in the morning on a school day, it can only mean one thing. School has been cancelled for a “calamity day.”
When I was growing up, they were called “snow days.” From a parent’s perspective, calamity day is a much better title. Snow day sounds lovely, even serene. As I imagine parents struggling to figure out what to do with their children while they are at work, or while they are trying to get things done around the house, I understand the term calamity days.
I refused to pick up my phone to look at the caller ID, holding out hope that our phones ringing like this was a coincidence. It was my day off. My wife and I always look forward to spending a day together. Then, the landline rang. A shout of elation came from the kitchen. My son had heard our phones ring, and ran down stairs to answer the landline when it rang, confirming his deepest hopes.
Seven o’clock in the morning is far too early for any such emotional outburst from my teenage daughter. All we heard from her was the bedroom door closing as she returned to hibernation.
My son came bounding up the stairs and burst into our bedroom. “No school!” he proclaimed as though he were announcing he’d won the lottery.
“We know,” my wife and I groaned in unison.
It’s not that we don’t like spending time with our children. Calamity days have effects like creating a vortex in the kitchen that suck the children in when anyone is trying to bake or cook or clean. Our kitchen is not big enough for three people to move around without constantly buffeting one another. It is possible to drive them from the kitchen temporarily, but the vortex will soon pull them back in. Another effect is that the magnetism of any electronic device is infinitely increased if they do escape the vortex in the kitchen.
“I’ll bet my teachers are all really sad,” said my son with genuine empathy.
“I am sure they are,” I replied, not wanting to burst his bubble by letting him know that teachers might actually enjoy the day off as well. I think he imagines his teachers wandering the lonely halls of the school when the students are not there.
I took a deep breath, readjusting my plan for my day off to include vortices and magnetic fields. With the excitement of a day off from school, I knew my son had forgotten to let the dog out. She would be dancing by the door.
Calamity days are a good reminder of the Yiddish proverb, “Man plans and God laughs.” They remind me that I am not in control of the really big things. The best I can do is adjust my plan, and try to enjoy it.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.