Sunday, January 7, 2018

Snow Day

They are predicting about a foot of snow overnight,
so you desperately hope but can’t be quite sure
if they’ll cancel school the next day.

You live in Northwest Indiana,
so you get the Chicago news channels.
They’re already listing the Chicago public schools
that will be closed tomorrow,
but that doesn’t mean that your stern Catholic school
will follow suit.

And it’s 1986, so they don’t close school
like they do now, just because it’s pretty cold out
or because there’s a bit of sleet making the roads slippery.

You look out the living room window,
watch the snow pour down
and swirl as the snow plows drive by
like a thick coating of powdered sugar.
You can hear the wind howling outside,
can’t see the asphalt,
even though the snow plow came by
maybe half an hour ago

They have to cancel school tomorrow.
You’ll just die if they don’t.
A long day of completing graphs in social studies,
A science test on Chapter 13,
A circle of girls that won’t let you in,
Boys who openly ridicule what most haunts you.
You wouldn’t be allowed outside for recess.
Your classroom would smell of sweaty boys
and tuna fish sandwiches.
You hate tuna fish sandwiches.

If they do cancel school,
You can spend the day outside
bundled up in a heavy winter coat,
wool hat, white gloves that reveal a hidden cartoon character
when the temperature is cold,
a pair of socks sliding off your feet,
underneath winter boots.
You’ll go over to Mitch’s house.
You and he will build a snow fort for a few hours,
then have some hot chocolate in his kitchen.

But you won’t know
until you hear it on the radio
early the next morning.
The a.m. radio station
that lists the school closings for your area.
The only definitive proof of your freedom.
The odds are good that if the Griffith public schools are closed,
St. Mary’s will be closed too.
But you have to wait.
The announcer lists Hammond schools, Gary schools,
Merrillville schools, Munster schools—come on!
Finally, you hear the words you have longed for.
St. Mary’s School in Griffith is canceled for the day.

Because it’s 1986, you are released outside
in the snow drifts that tower over you like skyscrapers
And you can go pretty much anywhere you want
and stay out as long as you want
as long as you’re home in time for dinner.
You might come home for lunch, sure,
or maybe some other kids’ mom in the neighborhood
will feed you.
A peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich
or maybe bologna and sliced American cheese
on white bread.
Everyone will try to make you drink milk.
You hate drinking milk.

Ironically, you choose to play for a while
by yourself in the snow drifts
in the parking lot of your school,
lost in a hours-long daydream,
probably something about horses.

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