Back before global warming, every year or two Norman would get enough snow to close the schools.
And there would be MASSIVE REJOICING on Nebraska Street, at least from the kids.
The Moms, not so much. Because they knew what it meant for them.
“MOM, WHERE ARE MY <<insert 900 things you needs RIGHT NOW so you could go play in the snow before it melted>>”?
But before you could officially go outside and have a blast, you had to wait in front of the television set.
Bundled up in your cold living room from about 6.30 a.m.
After you’d waited at least a million years, and listened to Channel 4 Weather Man Jim Williams drone on and on, the list of school systems that were officially closed would start to “crawl” across the bottom of the TV screen.
I can’t remember if they went by cities or school districts or counties. But I know they went in alphabetical order, and it almost killed me before they got to Norman.
I mean, a fellow can only hold his breath, and need to pee, for so long.
I’d start the wait crumpled onto the living room floor, wearing my PJs and a heavy coat, wrapped in an afghan, because our house was kept at an economical 12 degrees in the wintertime.
I don’t know why the stupid weather crawl had to begin with the A’s, but it always did.
“Achille, Ada, Adair, Addington, Afton, Agra, Akins, Albion, Alderson, Alex, Aline, Allen, Altus, Alva…”
It took 100 schools JUST to get to “Canadian”. By then I was a wreck, and Mom would call me to breakfast.
“I can’t, Mom, they’re listing the names and I don’t want to miss it. Let me eat of a TV tray, PLEASE!!!”
So Mom would bring me my frozen waffles and bacon, as I sat staring at the TV, willing it with all my might to say, “Norman Public Schools”.
“Canadian, Caney, Canton, Canute, Capron, Cardin, Carlile, Carmen, Carnegie, Carney, Carrier, Carter, Cashion, Castle, Catoosa…”
It would just kill me…
At 200 names we’d FINALLY get to Eldon.
“What kind of stupid name is Eldon? Who cares about Schmeldon? C’mon Norman!!!”
At 300 names we were up to…
“Indianola, Inola, Iron Post, Jamestown, Jay, Jefferson, Jenks, Jennings, Jet, Johnson, Jones, Justice, Kansas, Kaw City, Kellyville, Kemp, Ketchum…”
By then I would have eaten breakfast, peed twice, zoomed into the kitchen for an apple, and started hanging off the couch, listening to the weatherman talk about clouds, as I read the names on the crawl while upside down.
Even at this point it was too early to work myself into a total frenzy, but my heart rate and breathing would be getting faster.
“C’mon Norman. Come on Norman. JIM GET TO NORMAN!!!”
By then I would be screaming at the TV, which was a very bad thing to do if your Dad the fireman was trying to catch up on sleep after upmpteen days on shift.
At the 400 name mark, the crawl got to Midwest City, which was my signal to start taking shorter breaths. And for my eyes to start bugging a little bit out of my head.
I knew that Steve was doing exactly the same thing down the street.
We were in the home stretch! But if we did not get there soon, Steve and I would both pee all over the couch.
“Midwest City, Milburn, Mill Creek, Millerton, Minco, Moffett, Moore…”
“WE'RE TO MOORE, MOM!!!” I’d scream. “Why don’t we live there? It’s our name!”
Mom would warn, “Don’t get your hopes up until the say Norman Public Schools,”
I’m pretty sure Mom was praying for the exact opposite of what I was praying for.
“Say Norman, Say Norman, Say Norman, PLEASE GOD let them say Norman!”
“Mooreland, Morris, Morrison, Mounds, Mountain View, Mule Barn, Mulhall, Murphy, Muskogee, Mustang…
“GET TO THE N’s! I’ve got to pee!”
“Mutual, Narcissa, Nash, New Alluwe, Newcastle, New Cordell, New Eucha, Newkirk, Nichols Hills, Ninnekah, Noble, Norge and, going in SUPER slow motion, one letter at a time…
At which point the roof on every house on Nebraska Street would be lifted off the walls as kids screamed with all their might.
And life was about to get so great for us kids; the Moms not so much!
If it was one of those miraculous snow days, where it snowed so hard you couldn’t see across the street, and the temperatures were in the 20s, with wind chills below zero, my Mom knew she was looking at at least three changes of clothes for me before dinner.
The dryer would be running all day long.
My first snow outfit was two pairs of jeans, three shirts, my heaviest winter coat with nylon cover, two gloves on my right hand (the inside one was a white hand-me-down glove from my sister, shut up), two stocking caps, two pairs of socks and my cowboy boots.
When I was just about ready to race outside, I’d always realize that I’d forgotten to pee, so it would take another 5 minutes to strip down, do my business, suit back up and hit the front door at full speed, heading down the street to Steve’s house.
Back then you didn’t phone ahead, you just ran!
And if you were smart, you didn’t run in a straight line when you got near Steve’s house. Because that would get you killed.
Far better to zig zag, from yard to yard, from parked car to parked car, from tree to tree.
Head on a swivel.
Trying to see through the eye holes in your full-face stocking cap that never lined up properly.
Trying hard to listen, but not being able to hear anything but your own heavy breathing, until...
BAM BAM BAM.
If I was really lucky, Steve’s first salvo of snowballs would hit the car or tree I was hiding behind. If not, and he got me right in the eyeball, I’d collapse onto the street.
Blind and fatally wounded. Crying and screaming and furious.
But Steve would come lift me up, help wipe the snow and ice off my face, and then take off running as I threw my best Sandy Koufax fastball right at his big fat head.
Then I was off into hot pursuit, with blood in my eyes.
Well, at least as fast as you could run when you were wearing multiple layers of clothing, already half soaked.
We’d start by having umpteen gillion snowball fights and then ambush cars on Berry Road.
Next, we’d play snow football with other kids, which was just like regular football except when you got tackled, your ears would break right off and shatter on the ground like glass.
And it would hurt so bad that you had to cry. But you always got right back up to kill the kid who just killed you.
After maybe an hour, two tops, Steve and I were both frozen to death and exhausted, so we’d both head to our respective homes.
I would find my front door locked!
My Mom would holler for me to come around to the back door and strip off right in front of the clothes dryer.
She’d literally wring the water out of my clothes and chuck them into the dryer as I raced nekkid as a jaybird into the bathroom.
I’d turn on the heater and the hot water, then sit there shivering until the tub was full of steaming hot water. Then I’d do a swan dive right in.
It’s a wonder that all of my skin didn’t fall right off.
After all, I’d been frozen solid and then jumped right into almost boiling bathwater. But somehow my skin remained intact.
After a good long soak, and some cookies and hot chocolate, it was time to suit up again!
That meant another pair of jeans, covered by sweat pants. A t-shirt, flannel shirt, football jersey, and the super ugly heavy coat that some hobo probably donated to the Salvation Army.
Two new stocking caps, two gloves, now using the left hand gloves as right hand gloves, which was okay if they weren’t too tight. (Gloves go farther when you have one hand).
Then a pair of sweat socks, covered by my Dad’s Navy socks, covered by plastic Wonder Bread wrappers.
Then you had to try and cram your huge feet into the biggest pair of old tennis shoes in the closet, also probably hand-me-downs from some hobo or maybe a cousin.
The Wonder Bread wrappers were CRITICAL for the snow day’s second outing, because by then the sun had usually come out and started to melt the snow.
Neither Steve nor I ever had any galoshes, to my knowledge, so the plastic Wonder Bread wrappers were the only thing that kept our feet even close to being dry.
Then we’d have more snowball fights, ride bikes and have magnificent crashes on the Nebraska Street ice, pull each other on sleds or trash can lids, and go buy something from Mr. Uhles’ store.
We’d eat our candy in Steve’s back yard, looking through his fence and watching the day’s episode of “Okies on Ice”, which never failed to make us laugh.
Even though we were kids, we knew that you weren’t supposed to drive on snow and ice the way you drove on dry cement.
But every year, here they’d come, going way too fast past Steve’s house, the sliding right through the stop sign onto Berry Road and, occasionally, up onto Danny’s side yard; that is, if they were lucky and didn’t plough into another car.
Right about then, those snow drivers would pay the penalty for being so dumb.
They’d get hit by four or five snowballs and hear wild laughter coming from the far side of Mr. Uhles store or Steve’s back yard.
No question, Snow Days were the best time to be a kid.
Sadly, in my whole childhood, I don’t think we ever had two snow days in a row, which just shows you the power of Mothers’ prayers.
Even without divine intervention, our Mothers just wouldn’t have stood for it.
They would have kidnapped Weatherman Jim Williams or the Governor or SOMEBODY and made them open the schools before every single item of kids’ clothing in every house in Norman was filthy and soaking wet.
But, man oh man, it was fun while it lasted! ###
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