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COL Days without school kept kids busy

People have short memories. It's January and it is cold outside.

Today, temperatures were in the minus teens with windchills of minus 20s; lower in other places.

Yet people seem to forget that, No. 1, this is Minnesota; No. 2, it has been this way before; and No. 3, it could be worse. (I bet that folks living in the tundra laugh at us when they hear even the meteorologists complaining, or reports of cancellations and closings.)

It seems like we're becoming sissies; spoiled, to say the least. Or is that we are getting more common sense and respect for the elements? Myself, included!

Mild winters with little snow offers us the ability to get where we want when we want; and that suits our lifestyle. The world almost comes to an end if jobs, school days, sports and social events don't run like clockwork. I doubt that even today's school children can remember the tougher winters some of our own children experienced.

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Perhaps it is because snow removal equipment has become more powerful, or maybe because reconstructed roads are built higher and wider. Or maybe it is a fact that our winters are going through a cycle and are indeed milder.

But it would seem that during the years of the 1970s and '80s there was barely a week from January through March that five consecutive days of school were held. Or at least that many days in a row when rural children didn't miss a weather-related day.

Be it subzero weather or more snow than we knew what to do with, schools would announce "no school'' until their allotment of days closed was used up. Then came the next announcement of "school being held for those who could make it!"

In-town children did. Out-of-town children did not! Which meant it wasn't often that our children received an award at the end of the school year for perfect attendance! Not that they cared. I suppose if we had been perfect parents we would have attempted to make the drive to town. But when you're a dairy farmer fighting the elements, it is hard enough to get the chores done and the driveway opened for the milk truck, much less worry about school.

As for the kids, a free day was a free day and it didn't seem to matter to them if they got behind! Of course, they were urged by their parents to bring all their books home, just in case. But somehow or other there were more important things on their minds than homework or tests.

Things that were more inviting. These were the days to get the canasta cards out. Or maybe there was time to work on the 1,000 piece puzzle that Santa had brought and would be on the card table until it was finished, which could mean anytime from Christmas to Easter, pending how many free days there were.

Many a mean game of monopoly was also played, not ending until there was a fight and the money would fly! If boredom did set in, mom just might have a supply of poster paper on hand, an extra latchhook kit, or some sale material by the sewing machine -- all raw materials to start next year's 4-H fair project.

Should all else fail, dad was sure to appreciate the extra hands outside to help with the added work the weather was sure to make. Oh it was cold, all right. Yet can you imagine that through all of this children survived without a computer, television games, or a cell phone! As our six-year-old grandchild Jacob says, "Grandma, was that in the olden days?" Well, depending on who you ask, I guess you could call it that. And it wasn't so bad.

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Marianne Bianchi is a retired farm wife who lives in New Ulm, Minn.

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