Snow, by Deb Emily

Emily Winslow by Jonathan PlayerA little less than one year ago, England was snowed on. It was just a few inches but it was the most that had been seen here in 18 years. Because it’s so rare, they have no plows. The transportation systems freaked out.

We were on our way home from Paris (where the morning snow had given our boys their first shared snowball fight). The Eurostar handled the weather fine. But then we had to get another train, from King’s Cross in London, back to Cambridge. It had been hours since a Cambridge train had come through, and the commuters waiting with us multiplied.

King’s Cross station is a dreadful place to wait. First of all, the ladies bathroom is down a long flight of concrete steps, which I have unfortunately experienced with heavy suitcases. That’s ridiculous for a station that routinely expects international travelers to be mixed in with the daily commuters. (And what do wheelchair users do? And can I do it too??) Then, at the bottom of those stairs, you’re expected to pay for the privilege of a toilet. Wait–there’s more! It requires exact change!! Argh!

King’s Cross is dreadful also because they keep the assigned platforms secret until the trains are ready to board. It would by MUCH nicer to calmly find one’s platform ahead of time, and first-come-first-served would be fair. Win-win. But no. King’s Cross keeps everyone waiting in a common area, and then flashes the assigned platform at the last minute. The crowd surges toward it, and only the unencumbered are fast enough to get their choice of seats. In this case, to get seats at all. We had both children and luggage; there was no chance.

We’re not fussy. We hadn’t had seats on the Cambridge/London train on our way to Paris either. We’d been fine rocking and balancing in the little standing-room-only luggage area between cars, and the kids happily sat on the floor. But on that snow day on the way home, the floor would be covered by a deep, dirty slush from the feet of those who were faster than we. We couldn’t let the boys sit. How the three year old was going to balance in that I had no idea.

We got to the train, predictably among the stragglers, and tried to find a reasonable place to put ourselves. I’m amazed and humbled to report that several strangers made sacrifices to give us all seats. We weren’t together, but we were in the same car. My husband stayed with the little one. A few rows away, I sat behind our older boy. Our bags were stashed willy-nilly. The aisles filled with standing passengers. It was only one hour to Cambridge.

About halfway along the journey, our then seven-year-old popped his head over the back of the seat in front of me. Blood splashed from his mouth and his little red-smeared hand showed me the cause, pinched between his fingers: he’d lost a tooth, in the most dramatic and grisly fashion possible.

The coats of innocent commuters pressed close on both sides of him. I was happy for him, but keen not to repay the kindness of strangers with blood streaks on their clothes. I had no access to our bags, and felt like one of those heroines who resorts to tearing off strips of petticoat in an emergency. But, I had no petticoat.

I had a half-eaten bagel.

I used that bagel to wipe and soak up as much blood as I could, and get him clean enough to not be a danger to the clothes of those around him. I stashed the tooth in my jeans pocket, and kept my tone upbeat: “Isn’t this fun! I’m so proud you lost your tooth! Please don’t touch me with your bloody fingers! Nooooo! Don’t touch me!! Don’t touch anything!!!”

We got home, got him cleaned up, and happily built snowmen even though it was already getting dark out.

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Emily Winslow

9 thoughts on “Snow, by Deb Emily

  1. I saw your half-eaten bagel teaser on Facebook. Never in a million years would I guess that THAT was how it came into play! Very resourceful. What a nightmare of a travel story. Bad, bad snow!

  2. You know it’s love the way parents clean up their children. You name it we’ve cleaned it. My little guy tossed his cookies at a nice restaurant. My niece hid her diaper in our bathroom. And don’t get me started on pets!

  3. Mothers will use anything to clean up anything! I’m so glad you got some kind of seats in any case…My heart was sinking as I was reading your story.

    I can also relate to the false cheer! Oh, my.

  4. I used to live in London (my husband is English), and I know the EXACT steps and restroom that you’re talking about at King’s Cross. I was laughing when you said you need the exact change. That always used to make me so furious, especially when I was pregnant. Grr!

  5. Oh, I’ve so been there.. well, not in London, but the bodily fluid disasters in public places. Isn’t it amazing how resourceful parents can be in times of crisis? A friend of mine, sensing her kid’s dinner was about to re-surface at a nice restaurant, grabbed her purse and tucked it under his chin in the nick of time!

  6. Greg–re. pets: We got our little one toilet-trained last year and then, just to be sure we didn’t have too much free time, the cat started peeing all over the place, for no reason. Still does. *sigh*

    Kristina–The false cheer is very handy. I do try to not scar the kids with my stress 😉

    Tiffany! You understand my pain! WHY they don’t do something about the King’s Cross Ladies Room is a mystery.

    Sarah–Your friend is hardcore–that would have to be some intimidating restaurant for me to sacrifice the contents of my purse!

    Jen–MomGyver! Ha! I love it 😀

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