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Alice Collins: Winter evokes childhood memories

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October was my mother’s favorite month.

She didn’t like the hot, humid weather that was a feature of summer in our area of northern Illinois. While winter there was not nearly as cold and snow as ours here, it was damp and cold and icy for walking or driving. As kids, we enjoyed ice skating on a creek in a nearby park where we could go for a long distance between the pine tree covered shores. It was much more fun than going around in circles on an indoor rink. Our parents worried when we disappeared for quite a while, and they waited somewhat impatiently with the car running and the heater on.

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But it was rare to have good ice in October and we had to be satisfied with playing hide-and-seek or having belated games of baseball with cold hands or an active game of kickball. It doesn’t seem to me children today spend much more time outside as we did. They are more inclined to go to an indoor gym where the games are arranged and supervised by adults.

Unfortunately, in many places, the kind of play we did was unsafe. Traffic is more of a problem in many areas than it was in the quiet residential area where we lived. Our parents didn’t have the amount of traffic to worry about that is a concern in most towns today. We also had the benefit of several empty lots in our relatively new residential area. Those were eventually taken over by new houses but by then we were using up our energy in gym class at school and doing homework in the evening. But we still loved October and clung to it as the month that staved off the coming change that would bring winter.

We did like winter weekends and vacation days that gave us a chance to get out our toboggans and sleds and find the steepest nearby hills for an exciting ride. There were a few scares and near-misses with trees on those runs, but we knew enough to dump ourselves off in a snow bank to avoid wrapping ourselves around a tree.

At age 90 and using a walker for balance, I find it hard to appreciate winter as I once did. But I still love to see the sun or the moon on the snow, and I enjoy watching my active young grandchildren enjoying winter sports and activities. We spent a couple winters in the south to avoid the cold and snow, but it was kind of boring, and though we face some restrictions in winter here, we still love Minnesota any time of the year.

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