Snow Under Streetlight

January 16th, 2007  |  Published in etc

Snowy MorningWhen I was in eighth grade, my family moved from rural Pennsylvania to small-town Indiana in the middle of the school year, during the Christmas break. We drove with some help from people in dad’s new church.

Robin would have been seven or eight, and she drove mom crazy by asking “Is that the lights of Goshen?” every time we saw so much as a smear of truck stop parking lot lighting over a hill. Jamie was much younger, maybe not even two, and he was enamored with the gentleman from dad’s new church who was helping us make the drive, because his name was “Ernie.” Jamie’s favorite book featured Bert & Ernie, and his favorite part of the book involved Bert losing his temper and yelling “Ernie, Ernie, ERNIE!”

We arrived in Indiana with a few days left before Christmas break for the local schools.

The kids on my block all gathered in the house across the street to wait for the bus during the winter. I remember waking up a few mornings and looking out my bedroom window, watching them file out of the house and onto the bus, lit by the streetlight. I was going to be starting at my third school in about as many years and I remember feeling a nauseating sort of sick nervousness about having to meet those kids. A few mornings they didn’t see me, and their indifference to me looking down on them gave me hope that I’d be able to just slip into place at the new school with no one even noticing me. One morning one of the boys must have caught me moving in the window out of the corner of his eye, because he looked up at me before getting on the bus, and I felt all that hope evaporate.

Snow under a streetlight still makes me feel that tug in my stomach some mornings, but also a sense of nostalgia.

My first morning down on the bus stop corner, I waited until I saw all the other kids go inside the house. Then I walked across the street and took up a post by the stop sign, too shy to go knock on the door to get out of the cold. The girl who lived in the waiting house, Lisa, noticed me and invited me in.

I stood in the darkened living room with the other kids, listening to the farm report on AM radio. The house had a closed-in winter scent that reminded me of my grandparents’ house in Minnesota … mothballs and dusty furnace … and that made me feel better about just standing there while the boys said nothing and the girls talked about some guy they saw in a Camaro who “looked so stud.” I don’t remember saying anything to any of them at all for a long while … days or weeks.

A few years later Lisa and her father were out driving when a semi hit their car. Her father died either on the spot or soon after at the hospital. Lisa was hurt very badly. I felt badly for her in the way we reserve for people in pain whom we know, even though I didn’t know her at all except from what she said to the other girls at the bus stop. She was the girl who invited me to wait in the living room while it snowed outside.

Leave a Response

© Michael Hall, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.