It WAS THE WINTER OF 1967, AND I WAS IN SEVENTH GRADE. WE HAD MOVED TO WASHINGTON AFTER BOGOTÁ, AND WERE NOW LIVING IN A SUBURBAN MARYLAND NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR TO WHICH WE’D PLAYED AFTER KENNEDY WAS SHOT.
Now here we were in America, where the television news featured a person called a weatherman who told you what the weather was. I thought it was odd, when all you had to do was walk outside. However, I became a fan the night the weatherman said the magic words: “Snow!” Susie and I raced over to the sliding glass doors, pulled back the curtain, and threw on the patio light. Sure enough, flakes were falling. They looked like the white ashes blowing through the air at our despedida farewell barbecue outside Bogotá.
By morning, we had a couple of inches of snow on the ground and the television announced that school was cancelled. We went across the street to the Murrays who had some extra snow pants and Barbara and her sister Janet showed us how to make snow angels, just like Laura and Mary did in the Little House in the Big Woods. We had tomato soup and grilled cheese at our house since Mom said Mrs. Murray had enough to do with us in and out of there all morning.
More snow came, and eventually we had enough to go sledding at the park down the street where we had done arts and crafts during the summer. The Murrays had a sled that could fit three of us, so we took turns flying down and trudging back up, dodging sleds and saucers and kids sliding down on their butts.
One Saturday evening a few weeks later when my best friend Alice was over, there was really great snow on Bartonshire, except Mr. Duggan next door had parked his car where I wanted to sled. I told Alice that I was going to ask him to please move his car to the carport, and she was so surprised since I wasn’t usually that bossy. But, I did, and he did, and we sledded until Mom called us in for Colombian hot chocolate and bed.
Alice was even more surprised a few weeks later when I flew a paper airplane in Mrs. Rowland’s English class. There it was lying on the floor in front of my seat. The class was working quietly on homework; Mrs. Rowland’s white head was bent over papers she was grading. I reached a foot out and pulled the airplane under me, then leaned over and picked it up. Alice caught my movement.
“I’m going to fly this,” I mouthed.
“Jane!” Alice was alarmed but muted.
I creased its folds carefully and tossed that airplane across the room over everybody’s heads.
Mrs. Rowland looked up from her papers. “Who did that?”
I felt just like the heroine in a book who feels herself shrinking with embarrassment. I raised my arm while the rest of me shriveled.
Mrs. Rowland looked at me for a very long ten seconds, and then went back to grading her papers. She didn’t say a word to me, not then, not when the bell rang and we went to next period. Anyone else would have been sent out into the hall, or across the hall to the principal’s office. Alice could not believe that I’d done it. I couldn’t believe my wickedness.
Who was I becoming?