Snow Day

Charleston, West Virginia, 1955

Rising late, no shoulder shake to wake
you, swaddled in dark ‘til the shade’s
snapped up: Rejoice! It’s snow! It’s snowed
all night, snow still sluicing down, down,
spilled confetti: silver, white. No school!
No cramming yourself into woolen
leggings below your plaid dress
(no pants for girls: school rules),
no slogging off down twisting roads
to that room of bolted-down desks,
the teacher’s weapon: a hand ruler,
metal-edged– Instead it’s all joy:
late breakfast, bacon, cinnamon toast,
pulling out from Mommy’s cabinets
every possible pot or ladle or mug
you can use for the playhouse you
build: sheet over card table, forcing
your little sister to hide inside, then fighting
her over the cherry Tootsie Pop.

When you tire and the snow’s stopped,
you’re into your snow suits, rotund as sausages
rolling out the door, mittens, mufflers, hats
hastily donned, throwing yourselves into
that white wonderland, no care for the sting
of the wind, the chill to your toes, the chapping
of lips and cheeks. It’s a crystalline heaven
where you’re the resident angels: flat on your
backs, flapping your arms up/down,
up/down, leaving in cold marshmallow
fluff your celestial imprint. Traipsing back
in, dripping rivulets of dirty ice all over
Mommy’s kitchen floor, demanding cocoa,
you toss your boots every which way, collapse
on the couch. Campbell’s Chicken with
Stars warms on the stove. Every window’s
banked with white. The furnace revs up.
This is the safest you’ll ever be.

for Susan Austin Roth
published in Charleston Girls: a Memoir in Poem of a West Virginia Childhood  (FootHills)

-Patricia Roth Schwartz

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