The Secret Keeper 125

It was so cold that the minute I stepped outside and took a breath, the inside of my nose froze. I remembered that happening when I was a child in Vermont. It wasn’t the only thing that brought a smile to my face. Being “home”, the snowy atmosphere brought back memories of my sister and I taking turns to see if ice on the small pond was thick enough to skate on. I doubt our mother would have approved.

Growing up in a small farm community, walking for miles to play with a friend, made our tiny schoolhouse a meeting place for children. Especially in winter you were there, despite the weather. All day you could interact with them, like them or not. Most mothers didn’t drive in those days, and farmers could only afford one vehicle, other than a tractor of course, so the main vehicle took father to his day job. Families could not exist on farm income alone.

The classes in the one room schoolhouse were small, usually only four to a class. My class had two boys and two girls. There was Bobby who thought it great fun to eat his lunch which always contained a banana, with his mouth open the whole time. Of course he sat right in front of me, so I endured his lunchtime, with hardly any appetite for my own, and definitely, no bananas. After lunch we all headed out to the playground. We didn’t have snow days. If we got sick we stayed in a corner by the pot belly stove away from the others just in case whatever it was might be catching. No mothers drove to pick you up for any reason, you just waited for the small bus to drop you off at the end of the day.

Memories of playing in the cold flooded my mind as I walked. I thought of Henry who thought we were fooling him when we said his tongue would freeze to the swing set. How we laughed when he tried it. He was always bugging the girls, coming up behind them, grabbing and hugging. No one could really stand him. But even with his behavior, we all felt a little sorry for him when he tried to peel off his tongue.

One of the best treats was the spring weather when we could play in the trees on the outskirts of the grassy play area. Wild flower hunting contests, skating down the remaining small sliver of ice in the shaded areas was another thing we looked forward to.

I reached my destination, the old swimming hole my father dug out for us, now completely frozen and safe to skate on. I donned my adult size skates and cleared off a smooth area. I wouldn’t stay long, just long enough to complete the memory of being eight or nine, here on this patch of ice. It was very cold so I knew it was safe.


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