This week’s writing assignment was about a ‘small event’ ….
Winter arrives early in the north. By October the night feels very long and the darkness, combined with the cold, makes our small town feel very isolated.
There is a lake close by our home and the school is at the other end. We walk around the lake to school and back again, twice a day … about a kilometer each way. We rarely stay at school over lunchtime unless the weather is really bad. The roads are snow covered throughout the winter and few sidewalks are ever cleared. We either walk on the road or, if we are feeling adventurous, we will hike along the top of the snow banks left by the graders. The snow banks are huge and it feels like we are mountain climbing.
Unlike some of my friends, I won’t walk across the lake anymore. I fell through the ice a couple of years ago. I remember the cold and I was crying – but I’m glad I took swimming lessons during the summer. We learned how to get ourselves out of the water if we ever went through the ice. I was half frozen by the time I got home covered in ice and my mom was quite upset.
The cold makes the snow crunch underneath our boots with a high pitched squeaking noise and it makes me cringe like finger nails on a blackboard. The exhaust from the cars that go by seems to hang frozen in the air. During the day, the sky is often very blue without any clouds. The snow is very crisp and I can see millions of little crystals sparkling in the sunlight. It is so bright it hurts my eyes so I usually walk with my head down looking at my feet. I hate my ugly brown boots with the buckle-up strap at the top. They are clunky to walk in and they don’t exactly keep my feet warm either.
We have only one TV channel to watch at home and children’s programming is limited. We have to amuse ourselves by playing cards and board games, but eventually we start to get restless and rowdy. Then we are sent outside to play … even in the dark. Our front porch light and the street lamp across the road cast a yellow glow over the yard. The big banks of snow that bracket the driveway become our playground. It is rarely warm enough for the wet packing snow that would make ideal snowballs or snowmen. Instead, we slide off these snow mounds or play ‘King of The Hill’ – tossing each other off the top.
The sky is clear and perfectly black with an impossible number of stars. If we are lucky, we will see the green swirls of Northern Lights. We lie on a snow bank and watch for them until we get too cold.
When the boys join us, they like to build forts. We burrow into the hard packed snow on the sides of the snow banks with our hands and sticks. We build little tunnels that we can squeeze through, connecting them eventually to the street. I don’t like being in these tunnels and I am afraid I will get stuck in there … but I go anyway.
I’m crawling on my belly and there is very little space to move. I can’t wiggle backwards because I’m blocked by someone coming behind me. I feel the panic tightening around my throat …. and wake up suddenly with my heart pounding in my chest.
The nightmare has come back.