Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SNOW DAY by Peter Nolan Smith

This morning I woke up to a heavy snow falling fast on the Fort Greene Observatory and I asked the head curator AP, if he was sending his two young children to school.

"Of course I am." AP worked from home and his kids like all kids were attention-seekers.

"So no snow day?" The blizzard was predicted to last into the evening.

"Not a chance."

At 7:30 he had bundled Liz and James up in parkas and snow boots for the slushy trudge to the C train station. I watched them go and went back upstairs to the observatory. Snow flirted with the windows and I killed another hour before joining the exodus into the city. Many commuters must have taken off the day, because I easily found a seat on the B train to 47th Street.

I wasn't working for my old boss at the diamond exchange. Manny didn't need an extra worker and I didn't need to work for him, since I was selling diamonds for my own clientele.

"What are you doing here?"

"Trying to make ein bissen Geld."

"You came out in this weather."

"This is not weather." I was from New England, plus as much as I would have wanted to stay in bed, I couldn't take a snow day. I had bills to pay, however snow days were a special event in my childhood, when every young kid in Boston watched the winter skies for snow. We became weather-savvy and whenever snow threatened our city we listened to the WBZs list of cancellations, praying for a break from the tedious routine of reading, writing, and Arithmetic. The Nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills were quick to cancel school, but none of the schools in Boston rivaled the off-days of Beaver Country Day School, which declared a snow day for the slightest scattering of white on the ground.

We weren't so lucky. The nuns hated us out of their control and groans of disappointment at the end of the radio report signaled our attending school and my mother would send us out into winter to wait for the yellow bus.

"Why does Beaver County Day get off and we don't?" my next-door neighborhood asked on the unheated bus.

"Maybe Newton gets heavier snow than we do?" my older brother answered looking at the town trucks spreading salt and gravel on the main state road through our hometown.

"No way. We live in the Blue Hills. They're higher and colder," I refuted his reply, since a meteorological station topped Big Blue less than three miles from our neighborhood.

"Newton is farther north." It was sound logic.

"Then why don't the Newton public schools closed?" Chuckie argued with the fervor of someone who didn't want to attend parochial school. Few of us did, but our parents prayed for us to become a priest or brother.

"Because the teachers don't get paid, if they don't teach school."

"Nuns don't get paid?"

"You ever see them with any money?"

"Nuns only asked for money for Jesus, but they have to eat, so they get paid something."

"Pennies."

My mother gave them envelopes on holy days. At least our school had more holy holidays days than the town schools, but every snowfall the same issue was discussed on the bus.

Why was Beaver County Day different from the rest of us?

I imagined an ice cap covering its main building twelve months of the year.

Years passed without any confirmation of my vision.

In high school a classmate from Needham said that Beaver Country Day School was for intellectuals.

“Intellectuals?” Senator Joe McCarthy had hunted down intellectuals as pinko commies during the 50s.

“Smart kids.” My friend Joey played football. Our school's varsity team had won the state title and the Hawks were undefeated this season. “And our school is for jocks.”

“Jocks?” I had won an academic scholarship and ran track.

"Beaver Country Day only has debating and chess teams."

"Not jocks like you and me, so we'll never play football against Beaver Country Day.”

"And they'll have more snow days than us."

"You win some and you lose some, but not our football team."

Joey was right.

That year.

1969.

Xaverian went undefeated that year. Our cross-country team was # 1. I finished in scoring position for the freshman squad. We had no snow days that year. Beaver Country Day had seven. In my mind they were the best school within the 128 Belt and I’ve always greeted a snow storm with the prospect of a ‘snow day’.

I was disappointed often.

Same as today.

Not even Grace Church called a snow day and that institution is for smart rich kids.

On 47th Street I checked Google for the 'Boston weather' and 'snow closings for schools'.

Beaver Country day was open.

Somehow their not having a snow day made me feel good.

Like Peter Pan said to Wendy, “I will never grow up.”

Me neither.

Fuck Beaver Country Day School.

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