“I’m afraid we’re snowed in.”
Miss Roseborn’s words made a loud echo in the schoolhouse. Ten students stared at their teacher blankly. Surely she was wrong.
These children were the oldest in school—all ranging from ages fourteen to sixteen. They were studying for a final exam today, so they were at school earlier than usual. All the other children of Maple Creek were at home.
“Will we be here until evening?” Jayne asked finally.
Miss Roseborn nodded. “You might be able to get home this evening. But definitely not at eleven in the morning, like we had planned.”
Everyone looked worried.
“Well, what will we do at eleven, when we’re done studying?” Kate wondered.
There was a general commotion as everyone volunteered their ideas. Miss Roseborn watched them. She wondered how on earth she’d manage to live a day alone with ten teenagers in this room. But she knew she was the only adult present, and she ought to bring some order.
“Silence, please,” she said loudly. The commotion slowly stopped.
“We must think practically first,” she said. “Do all of you have your lunches?” Ten nods. “Alright. So we’ll have enough food for the day, since you’ll probably be able to get home by six or so and eat dinner.” She looked at the corner of the room where the fireplace was. “The fire is kindled. Do you all have water?” Ten more nods. “Well, I’d advise you to not drink very much today, because there’s three feet of snow outside and I don’t know how you’ll go to the outhouse in THAT.” She sighed. “Well, you’re all too hyper to work. So it seems that we’ll have to amuse ourselves a bit before we study. Does anyone have suggestions on what to do?”
Lily suggested that they just talk, a skill that she was very good at. Reluctantly, Miss Roseborn agreed. “But only for a half hour.”
Everyone dispersed into groups, but each group eventually merged together and sat on the floor. Somehow, the wailing storm outside had forced the teens closer together. Some of them expressed worry about the storm. Others were less worried. Maple Creek was a snowy town, and this storm didn’t seem particularly severe.
“I have an idea,” Miss Roseborn said after the half hour had passed. “Since you all seem to have a need to talk, we’re going to tell stories.”
“Stories?” Simon said. “We’re not five.”
Miss Roseborn gave him a look that made him shrink back into his seat. “Not stories like that. I want each of you to tell the class a true story about something interesting that happened to you. It should be appropriate, and not too…” She paused. “Well, I was going to tell you not to make it too long. But seeing as we’re stuck here all day….make it as long as you want.”
“Can it be really short?” Peter asked.
“No. Who wants to go first?”
Everyone except Simon and Peter raised their hands. So, with the help of a few students, Miss Roseborn wrote everyone’s name on strips of paper and placed the paper into a box. She closed her eyes, mixed the strips around, and pulled one out.
“Goodies!” Jayne said. “I already know what I’m going to talk about.”
Simon and Peter shut their eyes and prepared for a good nap. Ignoring them, Jayne continued.
“It was a dark, cold, chilly night,” she said dramatically. “The moon hung over the Marble family’s home in Maple Creek. A lantern sat in their window, and an eager face was next to it.”
Peter sat up a bit straighter in his chair now, with his eyes open. Simon was still sleeping.
“Do you have to talk about yourself in third person?” Rebecca asked.
“I never said she couldn’t,” Miss Roseborn said.
“It’s more fun that way,” Jayne said. “Anyways. Theresa Marble was at the train station, clutching the hand of her daughter next to her. They were very excited, for they were about to receive the most special surprise of their lives.”
“She’s talking about when her family adopted Teddy,” Lily whispered loudly.
“Class!” Miss Roseborn said. “There will be no more interruptions or I won’t let anyone tell a story.”
Everything was quiet after that.
“Before arriving at the train station,” Jayne continued, “Mom had told me that we would be adopting a baby. I had always wanted a younger sister. I told Mom everything that I wanted in my new sister—-how I wanted her to have curly brown hair like mine, and black eyes, and be playful and kind and easy to boss around. Mom, of course, told me that I shouldn’t be looking at the outside, but at the inside.
“The orphanage had sent Mom a letter in the mail with little boxes on it. The boxes listed traits, like ‘curly-haired’ or ‘green-eyed’, you know. Mom ripped the letter up and threw it away.
She mailed her own letter back to the orphanage and said she would take whatever baby needed a home the most, no matter what it looked like.
“I didn’t fully understand why she did that. I still wanted a brown-haired, black-eyed baby just like how I looked when I was born. And I just couldn’t bring myself to accept anything else.
In the weeks before the baby came, we prepared a nursery in the house. Mom and Dad were so excited. It was almost like Mom was having a real baby.
“Like I said, the night that we received the baby was very dark and cold. Mom and I went to the train station while Dad stayed back home. Dad kept looking out the window every five minutes, he was so excited.
“As we waited at the station, the train screeched to a halt in front of us. About a dozen people got out, including a woman carrying a baby. Since it was pretty dark, we couldn’t see the baby very well, but I knew immediately that she—-or should I say he—-was nothing like what I had wanted.
“I bit my lip and held everything in, all the way home, until I exploded in the dining room. I wept and wailed with all of my seven-year-old might. I told Mom how much I had wanted a girl not a boy. How everything with this boy was completely wrong. My mom was disgusted with me, but I kept wailing. Mrs. Thompson actually came running over because she thought we’d been robbed.”
Jayne took a deep breath. “I wouldn’t even talk to the baby at first, because I was so upset. It’s not that I thought he was ugly. He was a beautiful little baby. It was just that he was the absolute opposite of what I had pictured him to be.” She sighed. “It wasn’t easy for any of us in the house during those first few weeks. But eventually, I adapted to the situation, like all humans would. My little brother warmed up to me, and I warmed up to him. I realized how ugly my attitude had been. I learned a lot about what I thought was cliché—looking at the inside of people instead of the outside. And….” She smiled sheepishly. “That baby became Teddy Marble.”
The room was silent for a few seconds. Everyone knew how much Jayne loved and protected her little brother. They had their arguments, but they got along much better than most siblings did. It was beyond surprising to know that Jayne hadn’t wanted Teddy when she first saw him.
“Wow,” David said, breaking the silence.
Miss Roseborn was eager to extract a moral out of this story. “Have any of you ever wanted someone you were meeting to look a certain way? Or maybe you’ve judged people on how they look?”
Everyone looked uncomfortable.
“I’d really like it if a few of you could share,” she prodded. “Of course, you don’t have to. But you know what? I’ll share, to make everyone comfortable. I have always judged people based on looks.”
Ten shocked faces exchanged glances.
“I know,” Miss Roseborn said. “I’m trying to stop, though. I’ve met too many wonderful people who aren’t beautiful to believe that only beautiful people are smart, or friendly, or talented. There are beautiful people who have those qualities, and there are beautiful people who don’t.”
The classroom was silent for a moment more, reflecting on the story. It had touched each student in the room. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, each of them had judged someone else based on their looks, clothing, or weight. Jayne’s bravery, though, encouraged everyone in the room to share their own stories. James Muller, in particular, wanted to share a story that was similar to Jayne’s. He held his breath as he watched Miss Roseborn pick a name out of the hat. She read it out loud.
It was time for another story.
Deborah loves reading, art, and baking. She’s adored writing since she was little. As a child, she filled up journals with recollections of everyday events and stories about girls her age (who happened to like reading, art, and baking). “Snow Stories” is her first published work.