Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Minnesota in December Memory

The smell of recently bundled newspapers filled the entryway of our split-level house as my older brother and I spent another late Saturday night stuffing the comic and classified sections together. Four hundred Sunday newspapers had to be stuffed in preparation for dad’s journey out to deliver them early the next morning. We always put it off as long as we could, mortgaging sleep as we had to be up in time for church the next morning. The smell of one newspaper brings a familiar and nostalgic comfort; the smell of four hundred newspapers is nauseating. The slick and sore feel of ink-stained, dried, and cracked hands that no amount of hand washing could resolve was the way I went to bed every Saturday night.

We usually stuffed papers in the garage – even in the cold Minnesota winter. It is a difficult thing for a Minnesotan to admit to being cold. However, when the temperature hits 28 below zero, most of us relent and say something like, “It’s getting a little nippy out there,” which in general can be translated, “My bone marrow is frozen solid.” In mid December, the night comes early, intruding on the afternoon like an invading army. The cold barges in and owns the air, turning it crisp and mean. With no clouds to hold in the hapless and so-called heat, the cold sank in under the bright starry sky and had its eye on 30 degrees below zero. Ice was already forming on the inside of the windows and a clever frigid draft found it way into the house and onto my bare skin.