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Nonfiction: ‘Spring 1945’

Paxton Street, Sioux City, Iowa

In terms of solar relationships, the precise moment of the arrival of spring at a given location can be calculated. The experience of spring is not so precise. It simply becomes apparent one day that winter has gone and spring has arrived.

That morning, as we walked up the Paxton Street hill to school, the air was moist, perceptibly warmer than previous mornings. By noon it was warm, the sky was clear, and the last of the frost was definitely gone from the ground. Rivulets of water ran along the edges of the sidewalk. When we walked back to school after lunch, we were able to wear sweaters and light jackets.

A sense of anticipation pervaded the afternoon. We waited uneasily, impatiently. The sun, shining through the windows beckoned. We turned to look at blue sky. We were repeatedly called back to the classroom by Miss Orr’s command to pay attention. Today she droned. The words and numbers she wrote on the blackboard become blurred and indistinct. Pencils broke and had to be resharpened. Time stagnated. The classroom became unbearably oppressive. Recess was a tantalizing taste of freedom. A game of dodgeball — the boys were asked, reminded, ordered, then threatened not to throw the ball so aggressively at the girls. The janitor’s ringing bell ended the recess period and we straggled, reluctantly, into the building. In the classroom the pneumatic clock was under continuous scrutiny. The minute hand moved at an unalterable pace in one-minute jerks and the hour hand moved at an indiscernible rate toward the magic hour of three.

At three forty-five we burst out the front door.

 

RUN!

down the street,

yelling, leaping

pounding slapping feet

of kids.

Boys,

in four-buckle overshoes

splashing, stomping,

down the Paxton Street hill.

Tall kids, short kids,

fat kids, skinny kids;

kids in bib overalls,

in jeans with belts too long and

flannel shirts tucked-in in front and

faded blue jackets.

School’s out!

  And

It’s SPRING!

The wet smell of mud

says so.

I hurry past Bill

“Let’s go Bill.” and

catch up to Jerry.

“Wait up Jerry.”

“Hey,”

“What’ll we do?”

A quick punch on the arm;

he speeds away yelling:

“TAG!

YOU’RE IT!”

 

E.T. Fresco is a long-retired engineer of no particular note whose childhood years, spanning the duration of World War II, were spent along the ragged edge of a small Midwestern city — Sioux City, IA — in a neighborhood where many families subsisted without welfare, some in shacks with dirt floors; a neighborhood where kids and dogs ran wild; where World War II, to a kid turning ten in 1945, was red and gold starred flags in bay windows, rationing, paper drives and the MovieTone news between movie features. 

He and his wife call Door County home. They have lived here for the past 25 years. From time-to-time he writes.

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