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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Suspended In My Underpants

Today, March 3, 2012, Mitch & I strolled barefoot on the beach. As two native Michiganders, we still marvel at this miracle, even though we moved here almost 30 years ago.  
I know that many otherwise reasonable people choose to toboggan and snow ski and ice skate. My own brother and sister-in-law go traipsing about all rosy cheeked with their horses and dog of a Michigan winter day, like some thing right out of a Christmas card. 
But when I think of my snowy childhood winters I mostly recall trudging to elementary school and later, waiting for the junior high school bus in biting, icy, morning wind, wearing a dress.
Yes a dress.
Back then girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. 
That meant that while the boys were jumping around and rolling in the snow, girls walked carefully knowing that a slip on the ice meant landing with bare thighs in a snow drift. 
It also meant winter winds on chapped, raw knees up ineffectual skirts. It meant shivering and whimpering, and if you were me, it meant choking with resentment against the powers who made and enforced such cruel rules.  
On one unbearably cold, dark, winter morning when I was in eighth grade, I put jeans on under my dress and went to school. When I got there I was summoned by the school counselor. A fellow who for reasons mysterious to me, was beloved and chummy with many of my class mates. 
As I remember it, he told me I was a trouble maker and asked if I thought I was a women’s libber. 
I told him to try walking around without pants in freezing weather  with sub-zero wind chill.  
He said I had a bad attitude and if I didn't take off my pants he'd call my parents. 
I took off my jeans, put them in my locker, and seethed. 
The next day I wore my jeans again, but this time not under a skirt. When I was again sent to the counselor’s office and he told me to take off my pants, I did.
I was suspended in my underpants.
A few years later the dress code was changed, and a few years after that no one remembered there had ever been one.  By then I had fled northern winters and vowed never ever to be caught bare legged in the snow again. 
Thanks to global warming, they say the winters in Detroit aren’t what they were, and for the sake of all the dress wearers who remain in snowy climes, I hope that’s true. I however will always remember March as hell.
Take it Robert! (Frost)
        Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.