#9.1 Snow Day

# 9.1    Cherry Grove Road, Niagara Falls, Canada

We hopped about quite a bit once wed arrived in Canada from England via Turkey and Libya. We moved from Montreal to Toronto to Niagara Falls where we lived in a big old two-story house with a grassy lawn, surrounded by ancient maple trees.  A place where I was perfectly happy. As perfectly happy as a ten-year-old girl just discovering boys were another species could be.  Happy until my parents bought a house in Cherrywood Acres, a new development on the outskirts of town. 

This is # 9.1 of the On the Street Where I Lived stories. Its a close up view of one day in particular.  

Snow Day

It was only a few miles from our gloomy old house on Ryerson Crescent to our familys new split level across town in Cherrywood Acres but it could just as easily have been light years away. It was a whole different world out there in the barely built development where the cherry orchards used to be, everything bright and shiny and newer than new. 

We moved to the new neighborhood in the middle of fifth grade, in the middle of winter. I hated Niagara Falls in the winter, when it sometimes got so cold that the falls froze, the river turning into ice sculptures as the water churned over the bank. The cold, the snow, the ice and the hockey, I hated it all. But there was no escape.

None of us—not me, not my older brother, not our younger sister—wanted to move away from our friends even if our mother insisted the new house was pretty and filled with light. She wanted that modern split level with the attached garage so badly she wasnt going to let our whining ruin things. Instead, she took us shopping for winter boots to wear on our first day at the new school. Like we were supposed to think that was some big treat. As if wed be so thrilled to wear new galoshes that wed completely forget how mad we were to leave our old school and all our friends behind. My brother wasnt going to waste any part of a Saturday on shopping so it was just my mother, my sister and me.

Standing in the classroom cloakroom that first morning in February, I saw that the shopping trip had been a big mistake. The saleslady at the shoe store had convinced our mother that white galoshes were adorable, so much less clumsy looking than the ungainly black rubber galoshes all the boys wore. Without our annoying older brother around to make fun of them, Id gone ahead and let my mother buy the white boots.  All the girls will be wearing them,” the saleslady said. 

 Would they?  Would life in the shiny new tract be that different? Everyone I knew wore black or brown galoshes, everyone in the world wore them; all the kids at Simcoe Street Elementary School did, not just the boys, the girls too, clomping down the stairs, buckles unclipped, whack, whack, whacking loudly together. Black galoshes just like the ones I saw now in the cloakroom of my new classroom, lined up sloppily underneath the parkas and scarves hanging on the cloakroom hooks. Not another pair of white snow boots in sight.

The worst of it was that I secretly loved the white galoshes, they were adorable and I liked how they looked with my light blue parka. But I knew the boots marked me as girly and girly was dumb especially at a time when we were all acting like nothing was changing. Kids my age made believe that we were still the same old boys and girls as always; having snow ball fights in the winter, putting pennies on the tracks for trains to squash into thin coppery disks come the longer springtime afternoons, running practically naked and carefree under the sprinklers on humid summer days, and breaking into teams to pelt each other with piles of autumn leaves. 
Pretending everything would go on forever that way, but the times they were achanging.

There wasnt an available empty desk in the classroom so the teacher told me to hang my things in the cloakroom while the custodian brought in another desk. 

I hung up my parka and the snow pants that went swoosh when I walked. I pulled off my telltale white boots and —as if it had accidentally slid off the cloakroom hook—draped my scarf over them to hide them. Slipping back into the classroom, I tried to be quiet so no one would notice me but half the class turned around. Was I the first new girl they’d ever seen? It was the third classroom in my elementary school experience. Being the ‘new girl’ was all I’d ever been. 

Eyes front, boys and girls. 

The desk hadn't been brought in yet so I waited against the back wall and looked over the mysterious sea of heads. Girls with pony tails, curls and ribbons, braids. Boys with soft looking brush cuts, some with trails combed through their dark, wet hair, the backs of their necks pale beneath the collar of button down striped shirts and wool sweaters. 

I pretended not to notice the kids who shifted in their seats trying to sneak a look. When the door finally opened and the custodian brought in the desk, the entire class turned completely around in their desks and stared shamelessly. Like I was a new guinea pig they were going to keep in a cage on the science table at the back of the class, taking turns visiting and feeding the critter at recess and lunch.

Thank you Mr. Agosta, if you could put it right there behind Walter, please. Second row from the window. She pointed to the end of the row, four kids in all.

I watched with the whole class as Mr. Agosta carried the desk across the room, heard the scraping when he set the desk down on the floor behind Walter. 

We have a new student joining us boys and girls. This is Simone. I hope you'll all make her feel welcome in our classroom. 

YUCK! We all heard Walter say as I walked toward my seat. We all saw him grab his desk and jerk it forward, like I had cooties. Yuck, Yuck, Yuck. 

I stared straight ahead.

Walter! Apologize this instant. I wished Miss Allen hadnt done that.

Silence. Walter. NOW. 

Walter, brown hair, freckles, tortoise-shell framed glasses—not exactly movie star material himself—half-turned in his seat.

Sorry. The word shot out of the corner of his mouth like a secret spitball. 


I could feel it, the other kids who thought he was funny, the kids who never knew how it felt to be the one at the center of the joke 

I pushed my own glasses back up my nose as if to see more clearly but I couldn’t see a thing. I must have had a stray snowflake in my eye. 

As it turned out it wouldn’t be Walter who ended up shoving me into a snowbank, stuffing icy snowflakes down the collar of my parka, sending my glasses flying. That was Graham, bigger, hulkier. 

But all these years later, I couldn’t tell you one from the other.  

Popular posts from this blog

Baker Street Station—Sherlock Holmes was there

Brad Pitt: I knew him well. (Okay, that’s a lie. But I did know him!)

Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 46: White City