Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to school we go! Grace’s uncle Allen shows up at our house with kids in tow.
He has devised a system that enables all of the school kids who live by the Arctic Ocean to get to their classes safely and on time!
Our hours of operation have changed. In an experiment, the teachers have decided that maybe school should run from noon to 5:00 p.m. In the shortest of days during a polar night, it is dusky at noon. We lose any sunrise from mid-December until the beginning of January. When the sun returns, it gallops across the land trying to make up for lost time. Deep darkness with no sun and a whiteout riding the crest of the black mornings makes navigating a path to school dangerous.
Allen brings a rope with him that he has tied knots on. Each kid is to hold the rope at a knot; this keeps little hands from slipping. Either Grace or myself is the anchor. With all of the kids hanging on to the rope we put our heads down and start the journey. Blasting crystalized snow stings eyes and exposed skin. Little feet stumble and small kids fall.
We have to keep a close eye on my brother Kurtis; he hates school and escapes continually. He is only in beginners’ grade, which would be the equivalent of kindergarten. He is so determined to not attend school, we worry that he will slip out of view and hide until classes are over. We don’t want to find him frozen stiff behind a snow bank after running away.
It is not a far distance to our school, but some days it takes a lifetime until we finally stumble into the warm building. With eyes blinded from swirling snow, we take baby steps. In order to see better we could have pulled our hoods back, but it is too cold to expose skin and ears. We try not to breathe the frozen air directly into our lungs; it burns and makes you cough. Allen is much older than us, maybe as old as eighteen, that is very old. His eyes are good and he drags us along on the rope if we fall. He gets us to school every time! If the whiteout persists he comes after school to get us as well. He is a very nice guy.
To be continued