Column: Snow depressing now, but things were different as a child

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 18, 2001

Among the treasured gifts I received at Christmas time is &uot;The Highly Selective Dictionary for the extraordinarily Literate.

Thursday, January 18, 2001

Among the treasured gifts I received at Christmas time is &uot;The Highly Selective Dictionary for the extraordinarily Literate.&uot; My friends tend to overestimate me when they aren’t underestimating me. As when one of them says to me, &uot;Now be careful coming down those steps, they’re covered with ice.&uot; This at a moment when I’m crawling down the steps on my hands and knees out of sheer blue funk.

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Anyway whatever my degree of literacy I’ve been a little in love with words ever since I started using them back in my infancy.

I’ve been skimming through my new dictionary when I go to bed at night and before I get up in the morning.

This morning I discovered one I particularly relish: &uot;atrabilious&uot; or &uot;atrabiliar.&uot; You may already know it but it is new to me. It’s an adjective that means melancholy or morbid. It’s the exact word I’ve been reaching for to describe my state of mind in view of the weather.

Indeed the weather is beginning to make me feel more and more like the little farm boy in a story I once read. You may know the story. It seems that among the kid’s Christmas gifts are two lie particularly cherishes. One is a gun he has been begging for, the other is a diary.

On the first of January he writes ecstatically in the diary, &uot;I got my gun for Christmas. It’s a beaut! Only trouble it’s been snowing so hard since I got it that I haven’t had a chance to go out doors and try it out. Oh yes, I got this diary, too.&uot;

The snow goes on and on. Every day he writes in his diary. &uot;Still snowing. Couldn’t try out my gun again. Finally on about the 20th of January he writes, &uot;Still snowing. Shot grandma.&uot;

To be honest there was a time, when I was young and not overly bright, when I liked snow. Each year at the time of the first big snow my grandmother, who lived with us, would gather bowls of white stuff, mix in some sugar and vanilla, and we’d have snow ice cream. Thinking of the ingredients it can’t have been as delicious as I remember it, but I remember guzzling it down as if there were no tomorrow. The first snow was the only one so used. The dogs, you know.

The winter when I turned 12 my mother became a Campfire Girl leader. No one else wanted to be a Campfire Girl leader. My mother didn’t want to be a Campfire Girl leader either. But she got tired of my friends and me whining, whining, whining because there were no leaders with room in their groups for us. The head of the organization in town was an extremely severe spinster who terrorized all the leaders and was probably one of the reasons there were so few of them.

The mother of one of my friends, who served on the Campfire Girls Council, told me with joy and laughter about my mother’s introduction into the group at the first leaders’ meeting she attended.

&uot;Instead of being grateful to have a new leader,&uot; she said, &uot;Florence (the spinster) started sounding off about new leaders who came in all enthusiastic and then just petered out. Your mother gave her that I-am-duchess-you-are-peasant look the way your mother can. Then she said, ‘you need have no worry about me, Florence. I haven’t a speck of enthusiasm.’&uot;

As a matter of fact my mother was an excellent leader. Years later, when I was employed at The Tribune and en route to Mississippi to attend a Press Women’s convention I had a chance to visit a childhood friend and fellow Campfire Girl, in St. Louis.

&uot;Love’s mother was the toughest leader in town,&uot; she told her husband, &uot;and girls stood in line to be members of her group.&uot;

Out of 15 members, five got their highest rank, a record at that time. Anyway my father, always ready to cooperate with my mother, built a bobsled for the group to use. It was a long, narrow red sled, had shiny steel runners and a steering wheel with which to guide it. We loved it and took it out often to roped off hills.

When the Campfire Girls weren’t using the sled it was, of course, at our house. On one of my most memorable New Year’s Eve, the neighbors all gathered, and we spent at least two hours sliding down two steep hills near our house. Afterward we came back to our house, all of us, and ate freshly baked ham sandwiches and drank mugs of hot chocolate.

My mother made hot chocolate the creole way, a touch of cinnamon and a topping of whipped cream. I had a beautiful childhood.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.