I love what “holy crap it’s so cold” is to people in the Pacific Northwest. I think today’s temp was about 35F. I’ve acclimated after 12 years here, so yes, I agree, it’s damn cold.
But I recall what it was like growing up in New England and I’m amused. (Spoiler: It was a lot colder than 35F.)
More so, I recall waiting for the bus in the morning with a group of kids I didn’t know well, huddled together for warmth.
It’s the most profound memory I have of my high school experience. A bunch of kids, maybe ten or so of us, standing at the top of a long hill waiting for the bus.
During the warmer months, we barely spoke to each other. I might have known everyone’s names back then, but I’m not sure. We barely acknowledged each other’s presence.
On the cold days, though… that was far different. I don’t mean the average cold days, the normal winter days. I’m talking about the days where there was a true cold snap, the kind that makes your face go numb as soon as you step outside the door, and leaves the inside of your bones shaking and your whole body miserable.
To this day, when I feel cold I want to cry. It was the same then as it is now. Cold like that just hurts you, emotionally. You never forget it.
The street we stood on was a wind tunnel. Anytime a car would come up the hill and go by, a gust of wind would make the cold cut through all the layers of clothing that theoretically were supposed to protect us. We would moan together as one at those times.
As the minutes passed, as we hunched over trying to protect ourselves from the temperature and the gusts from passing cars, we would physically get closer together.
It wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t discussed, but somehow, in those times, we’d wind up in a huddle, using each other for warmth.
When I first saw “March of the Penguins” I was reminded of my classmates and me at that bus stop each morning of a bad cold snap. We’d circle together, facing inward, moving around without consciously meaning to so we would rotate our positions and each take turns at the center of the group. The taller among us would glance up once in a while and let the rest of us know whether the bus was finally coming or not.
There were no cliques on those mornings. No usual social hierarchy. No caring about who someone was, even. All we were to each other were warm bodies, fighting off the misery of subzero temperatures.
Once we were on the bus it was back to business as usual. We didn’t acknowledge each other at school in the halls. I don’t know if I ever knew their names. I certainly don’t remember those names now.
But when we needed each other, we leaned on one another.
I want to say something profound about the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I want to find the words to convey how inspired by them I am and how much I admire their response to this horrible tragedy. I can’t find the words. My emotions are too huge.
I think of the way my classmates and I leaned on each other just because we were chilly, though. We were a small group, about ten of us, out of about 1,600 students at our school. In a time of mild crisis, we bonded together and helped each other out.
I wonder how we, our entire student body, would have responded had we experienced a shooting at our school. I’d like to think we would have come together as a few of us did during cold snaps while we waited for the bus. I’d like to think we would have been as angry, as motivated, as organized as the wonderful students I now feel I know.
I’d like to think we would have been like them because it compliments us. It compliments us highly. The way they are handling this horrible tragedy is
…is beyond what I can find words to convey.
Bravo, to them. And hooray for us. With them and people like them as our future, perhaps we’ll be alright after all.