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Snow memories

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"Whatever you do, don't lick the snow shovel," was usually the last thing I heard as I went outdoors as a kid in winter.

We grew up on a Vermont college campus where snow was a way of life. My parents say one of their memories is clipping my mittens and hats onto my parkas because I never came home with them. I discovered last week that some habits are passed from generation to generation.

Even with two or three feet of snow on the ground, school was rarely called off. Six- and 8-foot drifts of plowed snow turned the sidewalks and roadsides into wonderful mazes. Often, bopping over to visit a friend's house, we couldn't see over the edges of the drifts.

My favorite memory is of building igloos in the sub-zero weather. When the top layer of snow froze, it was possible to dig tunnels out under a translucent "roof," often 2 inches thick. Chunks of snow-ice became foundation blocks for elaborate forts. The sunlight glowed through the roof of each igloo, giving them a toasty intimacy.

Today's State Fair sno-cones are a poor substitute for the maple-sugar bowls we used to feast on. Take one giant cereal bowl of the freshest snow, top it with maple syrup, curl up in front of the wood stove, surrounded by drying racks of boots, gloves, long johns, and scarves, and savor every bite.

My trusty old sled has followed me from Vermont to New Jersey to North Carolina. It really needs another workout. Did you hear that they have four inches in Greensboro and I-85 is icing over?

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