We were a young family that moved from Israel to Montreal with two girls’ ages 8 and 10, and it was our 3rd winter in one of the world’s coldest places. Winters in Montreal are very well known where the temperatures drop way below the 0. They say there are two seasons in Quebec, Canada: Winter and Maintenance. Winter can be as long as 8 months. This year it was long, and dangerous. We had snow storms, ice rain, black rain, you name it, and we got it. But life goes on and the city keeps living the everyday life. Lots of the life goes underground at that time of the year, and you can find everything you need down there – restaurants, shops, bars, amazing French coffee stands and – with no need to go up for days.
Kids go to school in any temperature, there is a yellow school bus and in Montreal it has huge winter tires and chains. In our case – as we were living close to school – the girls had to walk and could not use the bus. Wearing a snow suit does not mean that you are going skiing. It just means that you need to walk somewhere and it is -40 outside.
A real Canadian does not leave the house in the morning, during winter time, without checking the weather channel. One accident on the highway will make a 5 miles area traffic jammed in the winter, as the snow takes its toll. Piles of snows are covering areas that used to be car lanes.
That day was different. We woke up in the morning, and while getting ready we listened to the weather channel. It was 7:15am and the message was clear: stay at home! If you are not working in a job that you HAVE to be in (police, hospitals, etc.), DO NOT leave the house. Schools are closed for the day, and even the public transportation will be running in 30% capacity. The forecast reported a major storm coming, bringing with it a huge amount of snow and Freezing Rain.
I saw some kids already playing in the snow outside. Besides Karen. My youngest. It was the hardest thing in the world to wake her up in the morning. She loved to sleep in, and it did not matter what time she went to sleep the night before, in the morning you could not wake her up. One day I took snow from outside and placed it on her back. She did not move.
The only way to wake her up was to get into the room and say that everybody is waiting for her outside to walk to school, and if she is not ready in 5 minutes, she is walking alone. Karen didn’t like to walk alone, and this made her jump from bed and get dressed. At that point some of the kids would walk inside the house, and get a cookie while they waited for her.
Today they were knocking on the door, asking for Karen to come out and play. Some of the parents were also outside talking about the coming storm. A normal Jewish neighborhood, where everybody likes to talk.
Karen was still in bed. I didn’t try waking her this morning, but now the kids were there, asking for her. I suddenly had an epiphany. I shared it with the kids, and they loved the idea. It was supposed to take 10 minutes.
I walked back into the house, and changed every clock that was out there – the stove’s clock, the alarm clocks in 3 rooms, the big one that was hanging on the living room’s wall. All of them were now aligned and showed 4pm as the current time. This was the usual time that the kids came back from school.
I then went to Karen’s room, touched her and whispered in her ear: “Karen, it is 4pm. All your friends just came back from school, and they are outside asking if you were not feeling well today, as they missed you.”
Karen jumped out of bed, and looked at the window outside. Seven kids were standing there, waving their hands and shouting something, which you could not hear through the thick double windows. She ran to the kitchen and checked the time on the stove’s clock. Then she ran to the living room and looked up at the big clock. And then back to her room, picking up her alarm clock, which I never saw her looking at before. At this point, all the clocks were showing 4:10 pm.
I was sitting on her bed all that time, hearing her running from room to room, and trying not to laugh too hard. I was also making faces to the kids outside, signaling them that everything is according to the plan.
She than sat next to me, looked at me very seriously, and with her 8 years old sweet voice, she said very seriously: “I didn’t go to school today?” “No”, I said, “I could not wake you up in the morning.” “I missed a day at school?” She asked again, this time looking terrified. There was a huge Math test taking place that day for her class. She was learning very hard to get ready for it for few days now.
“You better dress up and check with your friends what do they want. They are standing outside waiting for you.” Karen dressed up in no time, and was ready to put on her snow suit, which she needed help with. Once you are in a snow suit, it is very hard to move. You are puffy and every movement feels clumsy.
I opened the door and she ran outside. Once she got to the kids they were all ready with snowballs aiming at her – and a huge snowball fight started. They were playing for the next 15 minutes, while I prepared hot chocolate and brought it outside. They stopped the game and ran to me laughing and pointing at Karen, […] still […] confused. “So,” she asked couple of them, “How was the test today? Was it hard?” They both looked at each other and asked her: “What test?”
“What do you mean what test?” She looked at them confused. “We were supposed to have a huge Math test today, and I missed it.” Everybody started to laugh and explaining her what is going on while showing her their watches.
Karen looked at me and laughed. She knew how not to take herself too seriously from a very early age, and she knew her mother’s strange sense of humor.
This was also the last day that I woke her up. Since that day, Karen used her alarm clock, and in case she was late to school it was her responsibility to explain to the teacher the reason. Other kids were bringing notes from the parents. Karen was on time every day.