Sights and Insights - The Missourian: Features People

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Sights and Insights

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 12:00 am

From my office window, I see it’s standing room only at the bird feeder. Each chilly chickadee and intent sparrow vies for space on the gently swaying feeder, and seeds to retrieve before flitting away.

Along the side of the house, deep tracks left by a hungry bunny lead to a neighboring yard; I wonder how this furry vegetarian will fare with every morsel of greenery buried under a landscape laid with a pristine white carpet, as yet unblemished by human footprints.

Inside for the second day, snowbound and snowed under with stories, I relish the screeching halt, the opportunity to catch up on the latest titles and write in a room that envelops me, shelves on three walls stacked high with books. With so many businesses closed, the phone is quiet — the only sounds breaking the lush hush are the ticking of a clock and sporadic click of my fingertips on the keyboard.

Snow days weren’t always so cozy. How well I recall the back entryway at our old house and readying our daughters for what I hoped would be at least an hour outside in the snow. Boots back then were a royal pain, rubber monsters that had to be coaxed and yanked over street shoes. There was no Googling for an easy fix. Word of mouth advice from friends was the order of the day.

Thanks to my friend Jane, I found out if you put plastic bread bags over a kid’s shoes and then stuffed the whole caboodle into the rubber boot the task would be less likely to turn in to a screaming match.

Jane had three daughters too, and though snow made for some boot issues, we enjoyed the break from school days and tried to get together so the girls could play, or we could try out cross country skis I picked up somewhere on the cheap.

I’m not sure what year it was that we tried to get to the store in Jane’s old brown station wagon, all six kids bundled up and squashed in. When we started out conditions weren’t too bad, but after a trip to Droege’s, with the back of the auto loaded with groceries, the weather deteriorated. Try as we might we couldn’t make it up Our Lady of Lourdes’ hill to get the Stucky girls and groceries back to our house, a split-level surrounded by inclines.

We sold that split-level some time later, and in the winter of 1989 prepared to move into a ranch we had built, with just as many hills around it. My dream was to move in on Spark’s birthday, Dec. 23.

When I announced to the construction guys that I’d sure like for Spark to have a special birthday gift, they speeded up their papering, painting and finishing and with the end in sight we lined up some friends to help us move.

Our moving-in day was memorable, as was a crazy stretch of winter in 1989. The actual temperature on Dec. 23 was 15 degrees below zero, one degree warmer than the previous day, when 16 below set a record. There was so much ice on the ground that rather than carrying the carpet for our lower level in through the house they slid the huge roll down the incline on the south side of our yard and took it in through the back entrance.

Thanks to our friends, and some cooperative construction guys, we celebrated Spark’s birthday in our new house. Jane even spearheaded the effort to put up a Christmas tree for us, one that stood in the front window, complete with decorations and lights her girls helped string, leaving everything festive and perfect before they bid us a goodnight.

Yes, 1989 provided a winter to remember, one that makes 7 or 8 degrees below zero and 10 inches of snow, seem like mere child’s play. Leave it up to Mother Nature to provide a bit of excitement — bring it on, give us something more to talk about, and help awaken memories of the good old days when winters were the real deal and kid’s boots made you cuss.

/features_people