Monday, May 24, 2010
The bane of my childhood
Winters in New England often meant cold, mean, nasty days; sometimes it began as a dripping rain that turned to ice and snow on an instant notice. We kids donned our snuggies (see the picture); underwear that was a horror bestowed on thin girls who would rather shiver in the cold than have the pink ribbed underpants fall beneath her knees for all to see. Snuggies only came in three sizes – small, medium and large. With our skinny frames, we needed something shorter in the legs. None of us thought to tie them up with a string tight above our knees or maybe fasten them up with safety pins.
Fully dressed in ski pants, sweaters and coats, hoods and mufflers, boots and mittens we started the long trudge to school. The wind howled down on my sisters and me. Living at the bottom of a hill, it was a long half mile up to the school. Our classmates, lucky to be on the school bus, waved to us as they went by. Mother had talked to the town officials but the ride was only for children living more than a mile. We traipsed up that hill, leaning against the mean wind that seemed to enjoy blowing down on us little children. I kept my scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose, breathing as shallowly as possible. I hated that cold.
Once in the school house, I took off my outer clothes, hitched up my snuggies and sat at my desk, waiting for instructions from the teacher. This year it was Miss Fallows, a stern disciplinarian who made sure we learned our lessons. Those winter days I kept my head down, hoping I wouldn’t be called to the blackboard at the front of the room to work on a sum or spell a word. It was the snuggies, always falling beneath one or the other my knee that kept me to my chair.
This day I was out of luck as Miss Fallows called me to the board to work out a problem in addition. Keeping my legs together as closely as possible, I waddled cautiously to the board. I smiled at Miss Fallows and turned to the board, chalk in hand. Absorbed in my work, I forgot my problem until I felt them begin to slip. A hitch at the waist slowed the process but then as I worked again at the board, they slipped again.
“Please, dear God, don’t let them show to the other kids, please God.”
Why hadn’t I just slipped them off when I arrived in school and dropped them into my ski pants? (Because the same God I prayed to for relief, would see me and let my mother know.)
I heard a giggle, and then a tee-hee. I knew it was too late. The pink, ribbed pants I wore were in blatant display. Miss Fallows didn’t notice my distress but heard the giggles and frowned at the class.
“Very good, Natalie,” she said as I hitched up my underwear and scurried to my seat, knowing what lay ahead for me at recess:
“I see England, I see France,
I see Nat-lee’s underpants”
©Natalie Norman Baer