My sister’s eyes shone as she unpacked the last item from the box of outgrown baby things she had brought to share. “Oh, DeAnn, this was yours!” She held up a small pastel-green snowsuit. It was made from tightly woven nylon. Stretchy ribbed cuffs kept out the snow and cold on the sleeves and legs. Elastic encircled the waist. Sewn inside was a white crepe, quilted lining. A sturdy zipper ran from the collar all the way down to the bottom cuff of the left leg. The small garment was still in good shape, even after being handed down to five more children.
Thoughtfully, I ran my fingers over the snowsuit. The fabric rustled softly. I could not help but wonder why my parents would have purchased such a frivolous thing. They grew up during the Depression; the “waste not, want not” philosophy was engrained in them. Why did they spend hard-earned money on a suit that their one-year-old toddler would wear (outside and for “everyday”) for only a few months?
Of course I did not remember wearing the snowsuit those twenty-some years back, but drifting from the nooks and crannies of my mind there was a photo…
Psychologists claim we begin to remember events as early as the age of two but much more so after seven. Every one of my siblings remembers our growing-up experiences in the South Dakota winter wonderland.
Whether whirling and twirling or plopping ponderously on our posteriors, ice skating rated high on our list of winter sports. Deloris and Dorothy reminisce of the years when we had our personal skating strip just south of the house. Fall rains sometimes filled the ditch and frigid temps turned the pond into frozen glass. It didn’t matter if we had to shovel it off first. Even that could be done on skates. A few miles away, Spirit Lake provided an ice rink along the shore almost every year. If we were lucky, we could skate nearby as Mom and Dad sat around their fishing holes.
My first skates each had two blades and three leather straps that attached to my boots. No figure-eights at that age, but I couldn’t wait to graduate to white leather shoe skates with single blades (and puffy black pompoms with bells). Pompoms were rather posh for the frozen stock dam, but it was within walking distance and the cows didn’t mind much. Delmer recollects playing hockey with the neighbor kids until all hours of the night, with rules tweaked just slightly. Or, what could be more fun than a game of Kick-the-Can on the ice under a bright December moon?
Some winters, wild winds deposited deep drifts just outside the house. Delmer and I scooped out tunnels and snow shelters that even Rex found cozy. They proved to be good cover when Dad and Don itched for a snowball fight. Don waited with the patience of Job until we dared peek around the corner. Dad laughed hysterically when his snowball caught us unawares.
Dad contrived some interesting devices for sledding. Darlene and Dorothy remember riding in an old car hood that Dad pulled behind the John Deere 520. We all fit on “The Tin,” the all-purpose farm implement that he made by bolting two strips of the soft metal together and attaching a chain. Behind the tractor the five-by-ten-foot piece of flat metal glided over snow and ice around the buildings and through the yard, while we hung on for dear life, screaming with delight.
Sometimes storms filled the driveway with massive drifts of white that needed to be moved. Dad used his tractor and loader to scoop snow into a 15-foot pile, strategically placed for speed and distance. The thrill of victory was strong when we skidded all the way to the barn. Then we dragged the old wooden sled with thin metal runners back up the mountain and flew down again and again. I remember a time or two when our mother even took on the sled challenge, grinning all the way down.
More than fifty years later as I write this story, I have before me a well-worn green snowsuit and a black and white photograph. The snowsuit rustles softly as I rest my hand on it. I gaze at the picture. There on the wooden sled with runners sit three children. A young boy in front, an older girl in the back, and snug in the middle, a toddler in a snowsuit. Our faces are beaming with happy smiles as bright as the winter sun.
Now I know why Mom and Dad bought the snowsuit— for fun.
DeAnn Kruempel grew up on a farm near De Smet, SD, the sixth child of Harrison and Mabel Wolkow. She attended school at Erwin and De Smet. Married Vicar Robert Kruempel and lived in Benedict, ND, Toeterville, Akron, and Missouri Valley, IA. The author now resides on an acreage near Logan, IA and is employed as Children's Librarian at Missouri Valley Public Library. DeAnn has written a series of five books, "Promises to Keep," which are available at Amazon.com.