It was one of those dreary, gray winter days just after Thanksgiving yet not close enough to Christmas so that, even though vacation from school was just around the corner and almost here, it wasn’t. It was still weeks away. And so you had to sit in a classroom and just look out the window and then at the big calendar and try to calculate the number of days you had to go until V-Day: Vacation day.
Today was Thursday, a school day. But today wasn’t like Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or even like Friday, the day before the weekend, because on Friday you still had to sit in class and mentally cross off the calendar or erase and re-draw the minute hand on the clock-face you’d drawn on your notebook; the clock that counted down to 3:15. No. Today was Thursday but there wasn’t any school at Monroe Elementary. You see, the night before it had snowed 2 feet and 6 point 5 inches. The buses couldn’t run and the schools couldn’t open. It was a Snow Day!
Everyone was outside, sledding, snowboarding, skating or just plain sliding on the ice and drinking hot chocolate from a Thermos. Way better than school! There were the twins Emma and Lily, athletic Shayne, rambunctious Clay, talkative Taylor, funny Jeffrey, and even shy Violet. The entire third grade class was outside. Everybody was playing in the snow and loving it. Everybody, that is, except Kate. She had just moved to the neighborhood about a month ago after her mom had gotten the job transfer.
“It’s either move with the job,” her mother had explained, “or there’s no Christmas.”
Kate had thought “I’d rather have no Christmas.” She didn’t really mean it. But she gave a try thinking it. It didn’t change anything, though, and here they were. Inside and no school.
Kate didn’t like being outside with all those other kids from her class; so snooty. No. Kate liked being at school, especially in the library with Mrs. Bainbridge the librarian. Mrs. B was nice, and she let Kate have her own small table near the back corner where she could read without being bothered. There she could read books about far away places and times. Books like The Azure Arrow, about a little girl who lived in a castle in the middle ages. It took place around Christmas time. That little girl was lonely, too. But did she complain? No! She picked herself up and went for walks in the nearby forest. She made her own fun. And she even made a friend and had great adventures.
Well, ma’am. That was what Kate was going to do. She would get up, put on her coat, mittens and boots, and walk in the woods next door and make her own fun. Alone! Just like in that poem where the man stops his horse by a snowy woods and watches the snow fall, with his horse just sort of shaking his head wanting to get home. Well, what did horses know, anyway?
“Who needs those kids in the front yards?” thought Kate. She would go out the back door unseen and walk in the woods and – well - she’d just see what. So that’s what she did.
The woods out back were beautiful and white and still. You could taste the snow on your tongue and the cold made your cheeks red. It was wonderful. So quiet. So peaceful. SPLATTT! A very, very huge snowball disintegrated against the tree next to Kate. She turned and ducked at the same time shouting, “Hey!”
“I could have hit you if I’d have wanted.” It was Kevin from two houses down. He was in fourth grade. Who did he think he was throwing snowballs at innocents, and being in Kate’s private woods?
“Great day, isn’t it?” said Kevin, rather rhetorically.
“Rather be in school,” returned Kate.
“I’ve seen you in the library. Not many kids go there. But I like it. It’s quieter there. Gives you time to think,” he said. “Have you ever read The Azure Arrow? It’s about some kids who hung out in a woods like this. I think you’d like it,” continued Kevin.
Kate stood there gape mouthed. Kevin had read The Azure Arrow? She couldn’t believe it. This Kevin may be alright after all. All she could say, though, was, “It was a forest.”
“Yeah. That’s right. Hey, look.” said Kevin. “There’s a snowball fight across the street. Come on. You’re on my side!”
“Sure!” called Kate, as they raced into the melee hurling snowballs like professional jai-lai players.
“This is a great day,” thought Kate. “And this is going to be a wonderful Christmas.”