It was a cold winter day in the early months of 1999, the exact day I can’t recall. I just remember that I was about to start the second half of my 8th grade school year. I wasn’t a particularly good kid back then, but I wouldn’t say I was a bad one either. I was being raised by my single mother and my widowed grandmother in a small house in a small town. Now I don’t know why, but around the time I started the 8th grade I felt like I had hit a turning point in my life where the rules no longer applied to me. I was growing less interested in school and more interested in the things that I could get away with, one of which was skipping school.
My friend, Tony, and I had been skipping school off and on throughout the first half of our 8th grade school year and had been getting away with it pretty successfully. Our plan was simple, both our moms left for work early in the morning right around the time we had to leave for the bus stop. My mom would usually leave before me, so I would say goodbye to my grandmother and head out the door, but instead of going to the bus stop I would wait along the side of the house for Tony to come over. Now my grandmother was a very old lady at the time and mostly spent her days watching “The Price is Right” and daytime soaps unaware of the goings on around her. Once Tony would show up, we would sneak in the side door adjacent to the kitchen and head down into the basement to play video games quietly as to not alert the watcher up stairs. We had only got caught once by the winter of ’99 when my grandma heard us knock something over down stairs. We tried to hide in the dark, but she wasn’t going to give up until she found us and right about the time she was upon us I jumped out from behind the wall and said, “Grandma! Don’t tell mom!” I don’t think she heard a word I said because she was clutching her chest and gasping for air and she definitely told my mom. My mother was upset and gave me a stern talking to, but the punishment wasn’t enough to deter us from trying again.
The morning started off like any other morning except it was time for me to head to the bus stop and my mother had yet to leave for work. We had quite a few inches of snow the night before, but not enough for school to be canceled. For a brief moment I thought maybe I should abort the plan to skip, but there was no way for me to get ahold of Tony and we had already decided the day before. I had to commit, there was no turning back. My mother usually left the house from the front door so I decided that I would leave the house from the side door and just sneak around the house and wait for my mother to leave. So I stepped out the side door and tromped through the snow around the back of the house to the other side to lay in wait for my mother to leave for work. It felt like forever with the cold winter wind in my face as I laid in wait. Five, ten, fifteen minutes went by and still no sign of my mother. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder and my heart leapt out of my chest. “And just what do you think you are doing?” a strong and angry voice called out. I turned around to see a look on my mothers face the likes of which I had only seen a few times in my life and I stammered to find the right words to get me out of this mess. In hindsight anything would have been better than what I said. The only words I could manage were, “H-h-how did you find me?” I was caught there was no way I was getting out of it I might as well learn where I went wrong. “What do you mean how did I find you? You left footprints all around the house.” It was there in that moment that I realized just how dumb I was and that maybe school wasn’t such a bad thing.
As my mother drove me to school, we passed Tony walking towards my house. All I could do was mouth “Sorry” as we drove past only to see the disappointed look on his face in the rearview mirror. “Was that your little buddy who was going to skip too? My mother asked. “I have no idea what your talking about.” I rebutted. I must have received a pretty strong punishment after that because I don’t recall ever skipping school again. That was the year I learned just how bitter the cold months could be and how snow will betray you with every step you take.