Saturday, August 14, 2010

Winter Walk to School: Des Moines 1971

I'd walked to school way back in Sioux Falls--to kindergarten, by myself, with snow on the ground. I'd walked to elementary school in Vancouver--just a few blocks away, no snow. But in Tennessee, I'd taken the bus or gotten rides--little snow. So, by the time we moved to Iowa, mid-winter and into the middle of the state, I was not used to either walking or snow. I had not lived in a cold climate since I was five years old.
Now, to my recollection, we started school--for me it was Junior High at Urbandale Junior High (Middle School these days), the middle of 7th Grade--while we were still living at the Redwood Motel. But Father and Mother had finally chosen a house, a little red brick one story on 65th Street just off of Aurora Avenue. Dow Aurora but maybe two blocks was an elementary school--where Sister and Youngest Brother went--and down the other way on Aurora (west) was Urbandale High, and connected to Urbandale High was the junior high school (where I would go). The high school was maybe ten blocks or more down the avenue. Oldest Brother and Second Oldest Brother were in High School. But, the first day of walking to school, I did not walk with them. In fact, I don't recall ever walking with them. (We were a pretty insular family, but we were also each individuals, over all the years I rarely saw my brothers in school or walked with them or associated with them or their friends in school [we mainly associated together with neighborhood friends, that was, up until the time we moved to Iowa, from there we all had our own sets of friends or no friends, I guess] the only exception was when we first arrived in Jonesborough, TN and I rode the bus with my sister and tried to look out for her, ate lunch with her, for the first few weeks or month before sliding back into my, our, solo habits outside of the household.)
So, here I was in a new state, city, suburb, a new house. I knew no one. It was cold. I don't think there was snow on the ground, but I didn't know how cold it was. I was unfamiliar with the school. But I was put out the door one Monday morning with my books, my warm clothes and coat, but without a hat or gloves or scarf. And, I began to walk.
It seemed like such a long walk. The threes were all bare, the yards ugly, the homes seemed old to--we'd lived in brand new houses, in new tract communities in Washington and just outside of Johnson City (in Jonesborough we'd lived in a rented house along a highway with lots of woods and big lots, outside of the main town), the streets were straight, the cars puffed by and there maybe were a few others walking but I did not know them. And--as I said--it was cold.
I'd never felt so cold. My hands were aching, frostbit-feeling. By the time I got to the school, I entered the first door that was available, near the gym. The Junior High was on the other end. But I had to get in and the first thing I did was drop my books and hold my hands over the heat register that was in the hall. I thought this was crazy--this cold, this new strange school and town. In many ways, though I became very comfortable with Iowa and Urbandale, I never got over that first dislike. I had never liked school anyway, and this just furthered my dislike.
But I did adapt. I became inured to the cold and midwest ways. I made it through school, as we all do. And I walked. I learned to love walking.

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