Winter and the Days That Break It

It was the last day of school before winter break, and it was a cool 63 degrees in the shade. The sun was bright and blinding.

There were 14 parents standing alongside the curb in front of the museum. Six of them were dads. The children were in various modes of field trip readiness. A man from the museum was speaking to them. He had long gray hair and a collection of bones tied loosely at his side which he refused to answer questions about. The children had trouble asking about anything else.

The tour was a nice mix of quiet listening and loud, interactive action. We saw wild deer grazing about 40 feet from the trail. There was a third grader for every foot between the animals and where we stood. The deer didn’t even flinch. They had seen the tour before. They may have bought the t-shirt. And then, most likely, eaten it.

At some point the wind turned and the leaves kicked up. The kids tightened their seldom-used jackets and returned to the bus. The parents had cars of their own. We all drove back to the school in a leapfrog parade, little faces pressed against dirty glass for a chance to wave at the parent of their choice. The adults rode in expensive cars and discussed holidays, trades, and whatever song came on KROQ. We met again in the school parking lot and it was like we had never left.

There were parties. Then the desks were cleaned, the lost and found emptied into the hallway, and children exchanged holiday greetings with each other while giving pretty packages to the teachers that taught them. It was a blizzard of activity, and the closest thing we would see to a winter storm this season. The cars were stuffed with sugar-filled faces and we all rode into the sunset like a jolly gingerbread army.

It was the last day of school before winter break and we drove with our windows down. The city sidewalks were busy, and when the wind swirled around the shoppers it was from the breath of happy children singing. The smiles stretched for blocks behind us.

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