Sister Mary Nicholas looked about the room of second graders. All were busy, heads bent over their desks, intent on the work at hand. She glanced at the clock. 2:30. One-half hour to go.
Looking through the windows that surrounded the classroom on three sides, Sister Mary Nicholas could see that Autumn had, indeed, arrived. The brightly colored construction paper leaves pasted on the windows reflected the colors of the maples outside – orange, crimson, yellow.
Her classroom, room 2-C, was one of three second grade classrooms at Vincentian Institute grade school. Sister Mary Nicholas, of course, thought her students were the brightest of all the second graders. After all, hers were the students whose photos were at the top of the “Reading Schooner”, a poster of a ship where proficiency in reading earned students the right to move their photos higher and higher up the rigging. Why, Johnny G.’s photo was almost up to the crow’s nest already!
The wind gusted outside and rattled the windows. A small whirlwind snatched an accumulation of fallen leaves from the schoolyard and deposited them in a drift against the chainlink fence that surrounded the school.
Hmmm, she thought. We may have rain. Or snow. With the temperatures as cold as they’d been lately, she wouldn’t be surprised if they had snow. Sometimes the snow flew early here, in Albany. Usually not. No, she decided with conviction. Even as cold as it had been lately, snow was unlikely. The branches of the trees outside scratched against the windows as the wind gusted again.
“Boys and girls,” called out Sister Mary Nicholas, rapping her ruler against the top of her desk as she spoke.
“Boys and girls, as you all know, tomorrow is Halloween. We will all arrive for class tomorrow morning as usual but, in the afternoon, we will have a Halloween party.”
A short cheer rang out from the students, but was quickly silenced with a stern look from Sister Mary Nicholas.
“Some of your classmates have volunteered to bring treats to share with the whole class,” she continued. “And we will hang the Halloween decorations you’ve been working on today.”
“You should all arrive in your school uniforms in the morning. Those of you who go home for lunch should change at home and return to school in your costumes. Those of you who stay for lunch should bring your costumes with you. You may change into your costumes during the lunch break.”
“Before you are excused for the day, I need two boys to clap the erasers after school. Hands? Thank you Mr. Drislane and Mr. Castellana.”
“Now, would you please all stand and say the “Our Father” before we leave school today.”
The classmates all stood and solemnly recited the prayer, but Sister Mary Nicholas noticed that some of the boys emphasized the ssss’s in the word “trespasses” just a little too much, sounding like snakes hissing in the grass. Several of the girls in the class frowned. Sister Mary Nicholas shot a glance at the offenders.
“Now, students, line up to get your coats from the cloak room,” Sister Mary Nicholas said when the class finished the prayer.
The students donned their coats, lined up again in a neat, straight line, and prepared to leave the school building.
“Remember to bring your scariest costumes tomorrow!” Sister Mary Nicholas called out as the bell rang to end the school day. “And be Christ-like!” she added.
The boys and girls marched out into Morris Street, safe under the watchful eyes of the Patrol Boys – at least until the students reached the end of the block. The sound of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” blared from the school loudspeakers.
Sister Mary Nicholas just adored John Philip Sousa.
For other posts on the Vincentian Institute, see:
For posts on the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, see:
For posts on the Pine Hills Branch of the Albany Public Library, see:
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko