Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Legend of the Last Day of School

The last day of school. The stuff legends are made least, many of our's were.

These Westerners, I thought, really knew how to celebrate such an event; it bordered on barbaric. Once we left the school grounds, we were a walking target for water balloons. As we got older, we made sure to either be driving our own car or to catch a ride with a friend on that day, just to be on the safe side. An attack was inevitable.

No one could have been more surprised than I on that first year after we moved Out Perfectville. I had my little yearbook and my backpack with me while I walked my usual route up the hill to my home. Main street was teeming with pickup trucks, with their beds filled with water to create their own portable swimming pools. The passengers (all in the back) were either dousing each other, or taking aim at unsuspecting pedestrians. Being previously drenched did not spare a person; it was only an invitation for more. If you looked like a drowned sixth-grader it was all the better for the festivities. I, initially, was furious. Did they not see my yearbook? Did they not see my backpack with important papers? Had these people no compassion?

There were, however, no boundaries; for this was a day of freedom in all its various forms. I was rather startled at the apparent loss of mind the natives were displaying. I had never seen such things where I'd come from. We'd been taught proper English, to mind our manners, and not to throw projectiles.

They were serious about their weapons, too. I never knew that a surgical hose could be used as a regular yet portable hose for water. The natives went to the local pharmacy and bought it by the yard, filling them with a special nozzle and then wrapping them around their arms, waist, and necks. That small town pharmacist must have been joyous once this was discovered; he was making a killing on product. I have to admit I bought my share of surgical tube down the line. A word to the wise; the wrapping of a filled surgical hose around your neck is NOT a great idea.

My sister Lauren discovered this on another last day of school. We were once again being cornered by the same neighborhood group of boys that drowned us out every year. Lauren was on the ground in our backyard where Jeff Parker had her trapped. As he sprayed her with water from his surgical tube, which was wrapped several times around his neck, she was choking and screaming for mercy, which was not granted. Until.....she heard a strange gurgling and realized that Jeff had emptied most of his tube, forgetting in the excitement to remove the shrinking surgical tube from around his head as it collapsed. Purple-faced, Jeff staggered off, jerking at the tube as he went, and eventually succeeded in freeing himself from certain strangulation. As I said; bad idea. But Lauren said it was one of the funnier things she'd ever seen, peril or no peril.

What had caused the 'freak out' in Perfectiville that was the last day of school? I think, personally, it was way too much inbreeding among the locals. But that's another story. More than likely, it was the weather.

Weather, you may ask? Yes, the weather. Inbred or not, these were a hearty breed of folk. The first winter we spent in Perfectville, it dropped to minus forty degrees. That's forty below zero. Which is pretty darn cold. Unluckily for us, the only time the school district would cancel school was when it was forty below; at that point, the diesel fuel in the busses froze and the busses would not start up to ship the students to and fro. But in twenty below weather, we still had to attend class.

Many a time as I was walking to school in the morning would my damp hair freeze solid. Many a time I had to peel a top eyelid from a bottom one, because my eyes, in the blinding wind, had teared up and frozen together as if it were crazy glued. Oh; and that's another thing...the wind there is impossible. It never, never, ever lets up. Even in the summertime, there is a gentle breeze. It's always a-moving, though.

I read in Alex Haley's 'Roots' about how the wind had affected the village he wrote of. There was a 'wind season' there in Africa; it lasted for a few months. Suddenly the wind would kick up, and it wouldn't stop. It made people crabby. Husbands and wives were seen moving out of their huts, to go back to their parents' places. Siblings fought. All of the village inhabitants were downright irritable. Then, months later, when the wind ceased just as suddenly as it had begun, husbands moved back in with their wives, siblings began to play together, and everyone once again got along.

The wind never went away in Perfectville. It never stopped, it never died down, and it never took a holiday. It was always there; as much a part of our everyday lives as breathing. When I was much older and moved to another town in an area with a milder climate, I was stunned my first winter to see snow falling vertically. I could not remember seeing it fall that way before. It had been horizontal or, on a particularly vicious day, horizontal.

I'm willing to give the natives the benefit of the doubt; if it wasn't the fact that cousins had married cousins, it was undoubtedly the wind that made them a little......nuts...from time to time.

If anyone deserved a rowdy party at the end of the school year, they did. In time, I joined in and became a vicious thrower of water bombs myself. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


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