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January 08, 2013


I love the notion of these imperial princelings being tugged along on their sleds. Sucj trabnsport is relatively rare over here. Although after the deep and persistent snows of last year, toyshops and chandlers stocked up on bright plastic sledges. Sadly for themn, no snow yet!

Wonderful story, Beth. But your last two sentences made me pause and think - isn't it so in most places? Where is it not? Am I naive? (I know in very poor drug and alcohol-ridden downtowns of some large cities it might not be so.)

Yes, Dick, "imperial princelings" is the perfect term! Of course, those same parents do push the kids off the edge of the sledding embankment -- they have to turn into ice-loving, winter-hardy Montrealers, too!

Marja-Leena, oh, I wish that were true! But where I come from, it's anything but. You find aggravated, angry, frustrated parents almost everywhere in the U.S., both in affluent communities and in poor ones, and often see them losing their tempers at their kids in public. It makes me very sad. I've often wanted to go up to these parents and say something, but you can't. My experience of Canada is limited, and I certainly hope what you say is true from coast to coast!

Once, while working in the USA, I was headhunted for a job in Wheaton, Illinois, at a salary way in excess of what I was then being paid. (I resigned after three days but that's another story). Excessive weather was one of the reasons and your post was a reminder that when the thermometer drops sufficiently life changes not merely by degree but also by its very nature. Forget the car (One faint Uh-huh from the engine of my Volvo which had stood outside during a -14deg night). And then the walk to work during which I was to experience a novel phenomenon you have already referred to elsewhere: the gradual freezing of moisture (I'm being euphemistic here, despite the fact that JJ has cleared the way for a more concise, more expressive word) in my nostrils. And the further discovery that I would need a completely new wardrobe were I to continue working in a town which had no bars within its administrative boundaries.

And yet people can - must! - adapt. The delicious fact that children on those towed sledges you mention roll on to their backs and contemplate "this inverted bowl" is proof of this. But not people like me, brought up in the land of the temperate climate where winter only brings about one change: a rise in the level of grumbling.

Roderick, my good friend Natalie d'Arbeloff has told me similar stories about her short-lived experiences with North(ern) American winters. I have immigrant friends here from places like Morocco and central America for whom the adaptation is even more extreme. Living in the UK would quickly spoil me - holly trees as large as one of our small maples, English roses scrambling over roof-high trellises (ours have to be cut back to the ground each fall), daffodils in late February. On the other hand, the sky is blue here, even if it's cold, and we seldom get that bone-chilling damp I've experienced during London winters -- and there's ample libation to be found in every block.

What a wonderful description of the children on their sleds. I sometimes pull Drew around our backyard on his small sled, and he loves it. (He's not yet up to riding the sled down hills, but he adores being trundled around the yard - though I don't necessarily adore feeling like a pack animal! :-)

The end of your post gives me much to mull over. I try hard not to get angry with our little guy, though I do inevitably get frustrated, especially with the butting-of-heads which seems to be endemic to the age of three. Sometimes I do snap at him, or speak to him harshly, and then I always regret having lost the serenity I strive for.

That scene reminds me of when my kids were little, though in Toronto those snowy winters are the exception. Re the priority of family life...I was born in the 1950s. Kids were generally left alone to pull each other if they wished, or pummel each other, or do whatever they wanted out of sight and hearing of parents, especially to avoid said parents' pummeling whether by hands or words. The main difference from previous generations was a suburban house, yard, distance between houses, and a priority in an appearance of good living. So I would say the family life and that attentive listening is quite new.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.