Over the river and through the woods

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Since my five siblings were married before I turned four, I essentially grew up at Grandma’s House. My mom and dad were Grandma and Grandpa. My nieces and nephews loved to come stay during summer break and during Christmas vacation. Living a lake with more than twenty miles of forest behind us, there were always plenty of things to do.

We loved to have winter skating parties. My dad, my uncle and I would clear a big square on the ice and put up posts about every eight to ten feet, stringing Christmas lights from post to post, encircling the open skating area. We piled a big stack of wood and brush at the deep end for a  bonfire and set down some logs around them for seating while we roasted marshmallows and hot dogs. We laid an old wooden door on the piled snow for a table for our hotdogs and marshmallows for roasting and there was always a pot of baked beans and some casseroles resting on cans of Sterno® to balance the meal. Picnicking in the snow is something not to be missed!

Mom had an outdoor speaker system to pipe music down to the lake and we danced on our skates. My brother would bring his sleigh and horses, the neighbors would bring their snowmobiles. We partied for hours and the signal to go home was when the bonfire melted through the ice and fell into the lake  – which usually took about four hours or so since the ice was so thick. 


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Of course, what with sledding down the big hill onto the lake, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and skating, we always appreciated the warmth and comfort indoors while we would take a break from the cold and warm up while reading something. We were always reading since television reception was spotty at best and we never knew which channels would come in. I learned and deep and abiding hatred for “to be continued” living where I might get CBS one night and ABC the next and have no ability to know which.

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Of course, it was not all fun and games. Mom would put my nieces, nephews and me to work making Christmas cookies, decorations and gifts. We learned all sorts of traditional crafts from her – making candles, making soap, knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing and cooking. Meanwhile, my uncle would set us to work splitting and stacking birch logs for the wood stove and furnace or Dad would have us sanding our own handmade hockey sticks or cross country skis that he made using the skills learned from his father. We learned to fix cars, carve wood and track critters through the woods. The other day, my niece was teaching her daughter to make soap and I remembered those many vats of soap we made years ago with my mom and though how wonderful it is to see these skills pass from generation to generation.

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