When I was little, we would often go to visit my grandmother, who lived in Idaho. She lived
very spartanlya spartan life, and in fact never cooked on anything but a wood-burning stove. She raised 11 children in a farmhouse that did not have an inside bathroom. Anyway, she did not have a lot of money, and there were not games or toys there for kids to play with. I think we were probably expected to spend our time outside chopping wood, helping in the garden, or walking to the post office to get mail. There were two main inside activities: jigsaw puzzles and old Reader’s Digests. I liked to do the puzzles, but more often than not, there would be a piece missing, which was pretty frustrating for an obsessive person like me.
That left Reader’s Digests. They were wonderful–and there were dozens, if not hundreds of them, all stacked neatly under the stairs. I liked reading the jokes, but I loved doing the quizzes in “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power.” As a kid, these seemed kind of hard to me, and I learned a LOT of words that way.
But even more wonderful were the “Drama in Real Life” stories. I already had a bit of a morbid imagination (what with seeing my brother’s terrible accident at an early age), and these stories fit right into my vision of the world. You think you’re having a happy family picnic? Think again, there’s a cougar just waiting to attack. You think you’ll swim out to that island? Did you forget about rip tides!!? What about a nice hike in the desert? Why did you not bring any water? But my very most memorable story was about a brother and sister who were sent to feed the animals during a blizzard. They dutifully held on to the rope that led them back and forth (since it was a complete whiteout), and I can’t remember how they managed to wander off, but wander off they did–to a potential frozen grave if they stopped moving and went to sleep! They curled together and took turns keeping each other awake, playing games, moving their extremities. They were rescued, of course (it wouldn’t make a good story if everybody just died), but that story stuck with me.
Yesterday we had a pretty decent snowstorm–with howling winds and low visibility. We had to go to a neighborhood meeting across the street, and I genuinely wanted to string a rope from our house to theirs. The street was a problem of course, what with traffic, pedestrians, and all, so I had to venture out sans rope. Ah, the exhileration of it! The thinking about how I would never go to sleep under a snowdrift–I would keep moving no matter what until they found me the next day.
So tomorrow I am off to Brazil for 10 days–away from the wind chills of minus 10 and into the warm summer of Joao Pessoa’s high 80’s. It will be grand–but I wonder if there are sharks in the ocean!?