She woke on yet another cold Michigan winter day. Sleepy eyed, she sat next to the heat vent allowing the warm air to warm her before she readied herself for school. Her daddy had left for work thirty minutes ago and her mother was still sleeping. After all she was twelve and really didn’t need her mother to oversee her getting ready for school. Daddy had warned her that it was really cold outside. It took him longer to scrape the snow and frost from the windshield of their 1954 Chevy. They, like so many other families in the neighborhood did not have a garage. Garages were still a luxury for those with larger incomes than their household.
She finished a bowl of Cream of Wheat and then made herself a warm cup of Ovaltine. The floor of their house felt cold this morning as she headed for the only bathroom. Brushing her teeth and fixing her long hair into a pony tail, she dressed for school. She hated the undershirt her mother insisted she still wear during the winter time. After all she was twelve. She pulled on her panties and half slip, a red pull-over sweater and a blue wool skirt. She decided she didn’t need to wear the snow pants or leggings as they were called. She was twelve and twelve-year-old girls were old enough to wear tights or knee-high socks. She pulled out red knee socks to match her sweater.
She pulled on her heavy wool winter coat, a scarf around her neck so the wool wouldn’t touch her neck. It made her neck itch. She locked the door behind her, pulled on her mittens and started down the drive-way for her half mile walk to school. By the time she walked the first long block her face was stinging and so were her knees. He nose started to drip and her eyes watered.
Half way to school, was found she was trying to walk faster but in all her efforts she only slowed down. Her face and legs were stinging with the cold. When she got to the corner she was delighted to see the school just across the street. Other kids that were walking that morning were red faced and blurry eyed too. Thank goodness it wasn’t just her. She was never as thankful this cold morning to reach the school doors to feel the warm air hit her face when she stepped inside.
As she did every lunch time, she walked to the corner where daddy picked her up and they both went home to lunch. As she settled into the front seat daddy had asked her if she got cold walking to school that morning. Not wanting to admit that she should have worn her snow pants under her skirt, she said a little bit. Why she asked? Daddy explained when he got to work it was showing minus twenty one degrees. Mom tried her best to get her to wear her snow pants back to school after lunch. No that was fine but it would be warmer at 3:30. After all she was twelve!
I think of those days, growing up in Michigan, so many years ago. No second car for our moms to drive us to school. We walked or rode the school bus. No one named the winter storms and as children we paid no attention to the cold. When we weren’t in school we would play outdoors until our clothes were soaking wet from the melting snow. We would come in, warm up, dry our clothes and head back outside. I often wonder do children still do that or are they indoors sitting in front of their computer or on their cell phone, texting?
If I could go back for a day in my childhood, I think I would go back to being twelve. Before things were complicated, when we still had fun in the winter time. When we were too cool or old for snow pants under our skirts but we still wanted to play in the snow fort on the way home from school.