Posted tagged ‘walking to school’

“There is divinity in the clouds.”

May 9, 2017

Gracie woke me up around six this morning. She was panting, a sign she needed out. I put on my sweatshirt and took her out to the back yard. It was so cold I could see my own breath. My heat has gone on a few times. When I went to my early morning library board meeting, I saw people dressed in layers and wearing hats and gloves. Today is spring gone awry.

The sun was shining earlier, but now the clouds have taken over. The sky is a range of grays from dark to light. The prettiest clouds are the darkest of grays so dark as to be almost blue. No rain is predicted, just a cloudy day.

When I go back to my hometown, I pass houses where my childhood friends used to live. I remember them all. I used to envy Kathleen whose house was two houses away from school. She used to go home for lunch every day. My friend Eddie lived right across the street from the church. He also went home every day. Paula and Dennis lived close to each other about a fifteen-minute walk to school. Everyone walked. There were no busses, and very few parents drove kids to school as most families had only one car driven by dads and gone to work early, too early for school. I never gave walking to school a thought except when it rained.

My favorite lunchbox sandwich was bologna with mustard, the yellow kind of mustard. It was always a white bread sandwich. I didn’t even know bread came in a variety of tastes and colors. Friday was tuna fish sandwich day as we couldn’t eat meat. I can’t even remember the number of tuna sandwiches I ate all through elementary school, but I ate my fill. I don’t eat tuna fish anymore. I still eat bologna.

I used to love milk. It was perfect for washing down dinner and even better for dunking Oreos. I stopped drinking milk when I was in the Peace Corps as Ghana had no milk except evaporated in the can. I have milk now but only with my cereal. The best part of that is the flavor of the milk left on the bottom of the bowl after the cereal has been eaten.

Nothing much going on here. Today is a perfect day to stay home, to do nothing. My laundry finally made it upstairs, and I even put it away. That was my yesterday’s accomplishment. I’ll take what I can get and be content, maybe even a bit proud of finally getting that chore done.

“School bells are ringing loud and clear; vacation’s over, school is here.”

September 6, 2016

I got home around 1:30, let Gracie out, fed her and tried to take a nap. I was too restless so I came downstairs, ate a few anise cookies, read my e-mail and here I am.

The sun is out. The storm was a bust. Now I have to put my deck back together. The furniture and the deck are covered with leaves. The table has about an inch of rain on it. Pine tree branches have fallen in the backyard. They fall easily, even in an every day wind.

The house was stuffy when I got home even with the windows open so I put on the air conditioner. It is now much more comfortable. Gracie has stopped panting, Fern is lying beside me and Maddie is on the same chair as always.

The kids were standing on the corners of my street today. They were waiting for the bus. A couple of mothers were waiting with them. I don’t remember any buses when I was a little kid. I didn’t need one as my walk wasn’t all that long, but some kids walked a couple of miles or even more. No cars were lined up dropping kids off in the morning or picking them up in the afternoon. One of my neighbors was a widow. She was the only mother with a car. When it rained, she always drove or picked up her daughter. I was jealous, especially on rainy days.

I never see kids walking to school anymore. They either take the bus or are driven. Mothers are waiting at the bus stop to see their kids off or to welcome them home. In the winter or when it rains the mothers wait in cars. That brings to mind the traditional beginning of the school year exaggeration passed from one generation to another. I walked to school in three feet of snow, during tropical storms and on the coldest of days when we didn’t dare stop for fear of freezing to the spot.

“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

April 5, 2016

I saw the sun this morning. The day was lovely for about a half an hour. The sky was so blue it didn’t look real. It looked painted, a combination of blues, maybe even by Van Gogh. I can hear the drops from melting snow so we’re above freezing. If this were January, I’d be happy with melting snow.

The sun has just come out again and I can see blue appearing from among the clouds. I’m hopeful that the sun will decide to stay for a while.

The Sox and the Indians were postponed yesterday because of the weather: no surprise there. The game is today and starts at one. The Sox are now being introduced to boos, of course. Most of the team is wearing the jersey head coverings just in case. The stadium is fairly empty. The announcer is wearing his winter coat.

When I was young, I didn’t care about the weather. It wasn’t as if I could do anything about it. My day to day didn’t change come rain, snow or sun. I walked to school no matter what. I tended to hurry on the rainy days and saunter on sunny days. On winter days my friends and I huddled to walk together, the better to stay warm. I remember it was hard to breathe on the coldest days and sometimes my nose would run. I’d use my sleeves for that problem because no self-respecting kid carried a Kleenex or even worse a handkerchief, besides that’s why sleeves were invented. It grossed out my mother so she’d sneak and tuck a Kleenex into my jacket pocket but it usually stayed there most of the winter. Sleeves were far more convenient.

I always moaned and groaned at the trials and tribulations of being a kid. Life was ordered so I didn’t have a whole lot of choices. What I didn’t realize was I didn’t have a whole lot of responsibilities either. I had to go to school unless I was close to dying. I had homework to do. I had to bathe occasionally. When I got home from school, I had to change from school clothes to play clothes. My vegetables had to be eaten, but my mother generally served the ones I liked so that was no big issue. I had to go to bed early on school nights. Early was contested all the time. My mother and I differed on its definition. I usually lost. That was part of being a kid: losing arguments with parent, but I’d start one anyway. I was always hopeful.

“Football is the ballet of the masses.”

January 11, 2015

I’m still trying to catch my breath after watching the Patriot’s playoff game yesterday. It wasn’t a pretty game. The defense left holes big enough for tanks to drive through. Twice the Pats were down by 14. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when Brady hit LaFell with a pass along the left sideline that the Pats went ahead for the first time: 35-31 which would be the final score. We cheered, yelled, whined, complained and even booed a couple of times. Flacco tried a Hail Mary with a couple of seconds left, but the end zone was so filled with players, including Gronk, that the ball was deflected. We finally got to breathe.

When the game started, it was 19˚ at Gillette then it got colder. Today is relatively warm at 26˚. Tomorrow will be a one day heat wave in the 40’s. I’m trying to remember where I put my sandals.

When I was a little kid and had to walk to school, my mother dressed me in so many layers the clothes barely fit on one hook in the cloakroom. It took what seemed forever to get down to my school uniform, the first layer. The cloakroom had two rows of hooks on both sides on the walls, and in winter, there was no easy path to move through all the clothes to get to the classroom. Coats and jackets ended up on the floor so Sister Redempta, my first grade teacher, used to make us go back out and hang up all the jackets. She had an aversion to mess. I think that was a nun thing.

I still have the most amazing visual memory of that first grade cloakroom. It had wooden walls, a wide opening by the main classroom door and a door at the other opposite end which led to the classroom, to the aisle near the windows. The bottom rows of hooks were indented beneath the top rows. The floor was tile. The optimum spots for hanging jackets were the lower hooks. On rainy days, our jackets usually dried as they were in the open air, not in some lockers.

I lost my cloakrooms in the fifth grade when we moved to the new school. It had lockers with no locks or combinations which didn’t phase us at all. We were used to cloakrooms with open access. Besides, I had nothing valuable except my lunch: my bologna sandwich, chips and if I were lucky, a Ring Ding or a Devil Dog.

“We have lunch at ten-forty-five,” Colin said. A stupidly early lunch. At our school, the older you get, the stupider your lunch period.”

October 14, 2014

On my way back from an early morning meeting, I noticed how many trees have burst into color. I saw yellows and reds and one tree where the leaves were yellow on the edges and red in the middle. Several trees, though, still have green leaves including the ones in my backyard. Full color isn’t expected here on the Cape until close to the end of the month.

When I was a kid, there were no school buses. Everybody walked. The public elementary schools were scattered all over town, but my school was the only Catholic school, and some of my friends walked a mile or more to get there. None of them cared about the walk. It was just part of their day.

We didn’t have a cafeteria so either you went home for lunch or you brought your lunch. Milk was for sale as were candy bars. The milk came in those little containers which were always difficult to open. The candy was in a big lunch box, and you got to pick your bar. It was a nickel. The milk was only 3 cents. It was never really cold.

We had recess every day unless it was raining or single digit cold. Some of us would just stand in groups and talk, and there were always girls jump roping. The boys stayed on one side of the school yard and the girls on the other. It wasn’t a rule, just tradition. The basketball courts were on the boys’ side. They played half court games.

One of the best reasons to go to St. Patrick’s was we got all the holy days of obligation off from school. All Saint’s Day, November 1st, was famous because it was the day after Halloween. We didn’t care about the saints though we did have to go mass. We were just happy we could stay out later trick or treating.

I’d be freezing walking to and from school in the cold of winter and I’d get soaked if it rained. It didn’t matter. None of us ever complained. That’s the way it was back then.

“Rain clouds come floating in, not to muddy my days ahead, but to make me calm, happy and hopeful.”

June 5, 2014

I woke up at eight but stayed lolling in bed for 45 more minutes. I just didn’t want to move, and neither did the animals: both Gracie and Fern stayed with me on the bed while Maddie dropped by for some pats. You can blame it all on the rain. It is falling lightly, gently, the sort of rain which holds me thrall, and I stop often to sit and listen. I watch the drops fall from the overhang above the window. The house is in cozy darkness. I’m still wearing comfy bed-clothes, and I think I might just do that all day. I have nowhere to go and nothing to do.

We always walked to school. Almost everyone did. The weather didn’t matter. We walked on the coldest mornings and in the heaviest rain. The school was our refuge, and we hurried to get there. On rainy days we didn’t have to wait outside for the bell, the nuns or the lines. We could go right to the cloakrooms, get out of our wet coats and boots and then go into our classrooms. I remember how quiet everything in the classroom seemed on a rainy day. It was as if the rain had blanketed all sounds except its own. Each the classroom had long windows on two sides, and the raindrops tapped the windows. I was a reluctant learner on those rainy days. I wanted just to hear the rain.

When I arrived in Ghana for Peace Corps training, it was the rainy season. Our first stop was on the coast in a town called Winneba where we stayed for two weeks. I remember sitting on the top step of a classroom block watching the rain. I can still see it all so clearly even after all these years. The steps were concrete and they and the building behind me were painted white. The top step was out of the rain, under an overhang. The rain was steady but misty and blurred the buildings as if they were a painting maybe by Monet. I had my travel umbrella with me but I hadn’t opened it. When my left my step, I forgot the umbrella. When I went back, it was gone. I didn’t really care. Nobody in Ghana used umbrellas in the rain.

“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”

February 28, 2014

The feeders needed filling so I braved the cold and filled the biggest one hoping that would hold the birds for a couple of days. It didn’t take long for the word to go out about the feeder. The birds were back almost before I got inside the house. It was mighty cold outside, only 19˚, so I was quick with the seed. Tonight it will be around 7˚, a temperature fit for neither man nor beast.  Yesterday we had another snow squall. Today we have sun and a blue sky, but the sun is useless. It is light, not heat.

My furnace is cranking endlessly trying to keep the cold at bay. I’m wearing two pairs of socks. Nothing is worse than cold feet. I have an errand or two I can do, but I just don’t want to go out and face the elements. The house is too comfy, and I’m cozy and warm.

I remember walking to school during the coldest of mornings. By the time I’d get there, my face would be bright red. Though the walk wasn’t really all that long, it seemed to go for miles and miles and take hours and hours in the cold or rain. Finally, when I was inside the heated classroom, my face would begin to warm and my cheeks would tingle. I had a classmate who lived two doors down from the school, and I envied her this time of year. She’d hear the bell and run from her house to get in line.

If we went outside for recess, the wind would whip across the school yard. We’d freeze and pray to hear the bell calling us back inside. On the coldest days the nuns had us eat inside at our desks. On those inside days, I remember the nun would put some sort of a cardboard shield around her desk so we couldn’t see her eat. It didn’t seem strange at all. Nuns weren’t like real people.

“It’s hard to explain the fun to be found in seeing the right kind of bad movie.”

January 27, 2014

Today is a lull from winter. The sun is bright against a blue sky and the temperature is already 42˚. But today is just a ruse: Mother Nature is chortling at our expense. Tomorrow will be 30˚ and winter will hold sway again.

January was always the dullest of months. We had no school holidays and nothing to celebrate. Our weekdays were filled with walking to school, sitting at our desks doing lessons all day then walking home. Day after day was endlessly cold. The afternoons were dark. The only bright spots every day were The Mickey Mouse Club and Superman. I think watching them was relief from tedium and kept us from killing each other. From Monday to Friday, we hungered for Saturday and the afternoon matinée, a wonderful, welcomed change in routine. We’d walk up town. The weather never mattered. We were going to the movies.

In winter every seat in the theater was filled for the matinée. Sometimes we were even allowed in the balcony, usually off-limits. My movie theater was kind of neat as it had a physical set-up which was different from most. The ticket booth was not a booth at all but was part of the side wall. After you bought your ticket you walked up an incline to the candy counter. It was the whole wall between the two aisles of seats so everyone had equal access. I remember the crowd was sometimes three deep in front of the candy counter, and everyone was trying to get the attention of the woman who manned the counter. She was Al’s wife and Al owned the theater. I can still see in my mind’s eye the counter in front, the mirror on the whole wall behind where Mrs. Al stood, and the glass popcorn machine on the left side of the counter. I loved to watch the kernels fly out of the popper to the bottom of the machine. That’s where the popcorn was scooped and put into the red and white boxes. The candy counter was glass with three shelves of candy inside. I always went for the candy which lasted the longest. Some of the guys went for candy which flew the farthest.

I forget when I grew too old for the matinée. It was probably around the eighth grade. I missed it at first as it had been so much a part of my growing up and my Saturdays, but there was a silver lining. I got to go to the movies at night.

“In the morning I woke like a sloth in the fog.”

December 9, 2013

I am going back to bed for a bit hoping to shake this malaise. My heat is cranking, but I am still cold, never a good sign. We went out for breakfast today, but we should have stayed home in bed warm and cozy under the comforter. It is raining: a cold, heavy rain. This morning the ground had an inch or two of slush. I didn’t leave footprints on the lawn when I got the papers but I left a trail which filled with water as soon as I took another step. The day has little to commend it. The best I can say is it isn’t snow. 

On my way to breakfast I noticed cars on the side streets still running and filled with parents and kids. They were waiting for the school bus. Not a single little kid waited in the rain. I would have had no choice but to walk to school. Most of us always did. On days like today we’d hurry to school not drawn by the idea of learning but by the warmth of the schoolroom and the hopes of getting dry. We’d hang up our coats then walk into class with red cheeks and runny noses from the cold. I don’t remember math or any other subjects on those sorts of days. I just remember the lights being on and the rain hitting the windows. 

My house is dark except for the laptop’s monitor. I can hear the rain. It is heavier than it has been all morning. The temperature is too warm for snow so it will stay rainy all day into tomorrow. I’m content to be inside. I have cards to write, laundry to do and books to read.

I am tending toward a sloth day being, as I am, out of sorts so I’m going to finish now so I can change into my cozy flannels, my slippers and my sweatshirt, the accepted uniform for a winter sloth. 

“…we went to watch the waves that bitter day and the wind took your red cap and mittens – blew them into the sea…”

November 4, 2013

I should be singing “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Yesterday’s warmth has given way to a seasonably cold morning in the mid-40’s. The view outside my window even looks cold with a here again, gone again sun, a strong breeze and cloudy skies. The weather isn’t inviting though I’ve already been out for breakfast and have to fill the bird feeders later. I’m thinking today is a good day to lounge.

I remember walking to school every day regardless of the weather. The worst walk was during the winter when it was cold and sometimes so damp my bones would chill. My mother made us wear snow pants, thick coats, hats, mittens and sometimes boots, but when I got to a certain age, snow pants were out. I didn’t want to wear them anymore. They were, in my mind, for little kids. Worst of all was I looked silly wearing them because my uniform skirt was worn over the pants instead of tucked in, never an attractive look. My mother, still trying to keep me warm, bought me pink thermal underwear instead. I remember the legs of the underwear reached to my knees. I also remember the underwear was really ugly.

I have a winter coat but I seldom wear it. Going from the house to the car to a warm store doesn’t seem to warrant a heavy coat; instead, I wear a sweatshirt most of the winter, but if it gets really cold, like single digits, I add a lined jacket, a light jacket. I still wear mittens instead of gloves. They keep my hands warm with all the fingers interacting. I have earmuffs but am seldom outside long enough to need them. They’re an emergency item. I hate having red, cold ears.

I have a couple of pairs of boots, but I don’t wear them either. They’re the sort with laces up the front, and, in the age of velcro, that seems an awful lot of work. I usually just wait until my walk is shoveled before I go anywhere and then I wear my wool winter clogs which I have in four different colors. If nothing else, my feet are fashionable in winter.