Yesterday's Magazette

6 – A Touch of Frost

A Touch Of Frost

Photo and Words by Richard Ong

It was in the winter of 1980 when I first realized how cold this country could get. My family came from a tropical country and moving to Canada not only meant leaving your friends behind, but also learning to trade a warm, sunny morning with the cold, gusty wind of the first snowfall of the year.

The skinny lad of fifteen that stared back at me with impunity from the mirror had never owned a turtle-neck sweater in his life. I struggled with the coarse fabric to poke my head through the opening at the top of the pleated collar. When the deed was done, I lamented at the sorry state of my hair and made a mental note to groom myself after putting on a turtle-neck sweater in the future.

Even with the curtains drawn, the meager light that came through the small basement window was largely obscured by a thick pack of snow that accumulated overnight on the ground. My fingers touched the glass and the pane felt like ice. I rubbed my arms with my hands, trying to generate some body heat. The sweater did little to dispel the cold draft in my room.

YM:Frost:Ong

I turned on the radio and listened to the meteorologist promise another two inches of snow for the rest of the day. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what she found so cheerful about her forecast.

The thin walls of the basement floor shook at the force of three knocks at the top of the stairs. Mom yelled that I would be late for school. She also said that Dad was already outside warming up the car.

I sighed, ran upstairs towards the living room and traversed the short distance around the corner and into the kitchen. I opened the fridge and shivered as I stared at the three indistinguishable brown paper bags on the top shelf. I imagined that the cold clammy air seeping out of the fridge would be nothing compared to what awaited me outside the house.

“They’re all the same, Richard,” said my mom.

Great,” I thought, grabbing a bag in random. Fried egg sandwich and an almost brown banana.

I heard the blaring honk of an automobile horn and I hustled towards the hallway. I opened the closet and pulled out a blue ski jacket from one of the hangers.

“Here, let me help you,” said my mom as she wrapped a scarf around my neck in a choker-hold style that felt tighter than a hangman’s noose.

“Aack!” was the only sound that came out of my mouth as I struggled to loosen the cloth and catch my breath.

She zipped the front of my jacket all the way up, burying the choker scarf underneath the collar. A tuque was pulled over my head obscuring my vision.

Suddenly, I heard a gasp.

With one hand over her mouth, Mom pointed at my feet. I looked down, shook my head and gave her a shrug.

“Your shoes! Aya! We forgot to buy you a new pair of winter boots!”

“Mom, it’s okay. Really! These are a good pair of running shoes.”

“But not waterproof,” she said, waving her forefinger at my face. “Wait here.”

“I’m going to be late!” I rubbed the condensation off the glass of the storm door and peered into the driveway. Dad was walking towards the porch steps with a look of impatience on his face.

Mom hurried back with a pair of plastic grocery bags on one hand and a fistful of rubber bands on the other.

“Here. Put this on,” she said. “It will keep your shoes dry until you’re inside the school.”

“Mom!” I protested and looked back behind me for support. My heart sank when I saw Dad casually light a cigarette and remain  standing outside on the porch.

“Stop arguing with me and just do as I say,” she said. “This is for your own good.”

I groaned and placed one shoe after another into the plastic bags. She fastened the bags with the rubber bands snapped tight around my ankles.

“Now off you go,” she said. “And don’t forget your lunch, silly.”

I grabbed the nameless brown paper bag from her hand and carefully sloshed my way towards the front passenger seat of the car.

A short while later, the car stopped in front of the unremarkable brown, two-story brick building. I stepped onto the walkway and sprinted down the icy path, hoping that none of the other students would notice the odd-looking covers around my feet.

Suddenly, my right heel slipped against what appeared to be a harmless patch of snow. Before I realized what was happening, I felt a hard thump on my rump and I continued to slide down a diagonal path at a distance of some fifteen feet before hitting the edge of the grass.

Amidst the shocked look on the faces of a number of concerned students, laughter erupted from behind. I rolled over and patted the snow off my back. I recognized the voice of my friend, Jay Banguero, as he pulled me to my feet.

“Thanks,” I said, feeling the warmth of embarrassment on my cheeks. “I don’t know what happened.”

“I do,” he said pointing at my feet. “But do me a favor next time, Bud. If you want to learn how to ski, just give me a holler and I’ll lend you a proper gear. That goofy-looking footwear of yours is a riot!”

“Oh, be quiet,” I said as Jay broke down and laughed once again.

There was one good thing that came out of this ordeal.

Mom was right.

My shoes were dry.

Vol. 38 No.4 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter- 2011-12

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