THE LADIES PAGE

COUNTRY ECHOES

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The whining winter winds of Wisconsin are whistling through the bedroom window which I can't quite get closed. The messages they bring send a shiver down my spine, as I contemplate the stretch of winter still ahead. That is until 1 think of the plucky penguins of the Arctic and the Antarctic area.

For a period of two months during the cold and dark of the Antarctic winter, the male Emperor Penguin goes without food as he incubates the one single egg which is to bring forth the offspring of himself and his white-vested mate.

In other species of penguins the time is shared by both male and female. They may change as often as twice a day. While in other families of penguins the eggs are laid in rough nests of stones and bits of vegetation. Over these the brooding bird lies flat to keep the eggs warm and bring forth their young. This is hardly liberation for either parent.

One can but marvel at the instincts of such creatures. Their constant enemies are the Elephant Seals which lumber up out of the water, and often crush their nests and eggs as they haul their heavy bodies around on the rocky, frozen ground.

For Penguins, such as the Emperors, the seal is not such a threat. They keep their lone egg warm in a fold of skin just above their feet. These remain up-right, back to the biting wind, patiently waiting for the arrival of a living little one. They often stand near moving water so they can assuage their thirst. And there are the varieties of penguins equipped with extra insulation so they can move about during the incubation period.

Surely it is good to remember the penguins when I am disliking winter. Suddenly I find myself being very grateful for a warm house, and ample food. The thought of a satisfying supply for anyone's sweet tooth was brought home to me recently as we traveled toward New Jersey.

We were getting mile-weary, and running out of conversation as we gained on a huge truck traveling ahead of us. Sleepily I gazed at the back of that tank truck to see if I might discern its contents.

'Liquid chocolate!' I exclaimed, coming wide awake in an instant. 'Not really! Liquid chocolate!' Somehow I couldn't conceive of a huge tank truck full of yummy smooth chocolate. It made me suddenly hungry for a chocolate bar, crammed with crunchy nuts.

Just a few miles back we had passed a truck laden with breaded fish. The power of suggestion was working over-time. Fish and chocolate covered nuts are two of my favorite foods. It wasn't too long since we had eaten breakfast, but suddenly I was painfully hungry. And, of course fighting overweight.

And now, as I remember the incident, I have decided to like the winter, and make good use of the extra time it affords. Just as I wasn't hungry until the chocolate and fish were advertised before me, why should I dislike winter because that is all there is right now?

The penguins are much wiser than I. There on those frozen beaches they accept the never ending cold. There they fulfill their destiny. There they carry on without complaint.

This trip we have taken to visit two of our sons in New Jersey, and two daughters along the way, also brought other things into focus. We were taken to Philadelphia to see the planetarium, and were shown the Christmas Story against the backdrop of the star-studded sky. In the midst of this large city, so heavily peopled with Christmas shoppers, was this quiet interval of wonder-One felt all alone in the middle of many viewers. It was almost magical in the friendly darkness as the rich music came forth, and the pleasant voice of the narrator began this ageless account.

Winter brought this! The beginning of winter! And we attended a Christmas party for ministers of the Southern District of the State of New Jersey. Our second son is a pastor. Cy Cook and The Senators, a singing group from Pensacola, Florida entertained us. I brought home one of their records to warm us through the cold months. Mr. B says I am wearing it out too fast. But it has such pleasant memories for reviewing.

On our way toward home we stopped off in Naperville, Illinois, to visit our oldest daughter and her family. One of the grandsons was ready to leave for his afternoon kindergarten class just as we arrived. I thought he seemed unusually eager to be off. I soon learned the reason. It was the very afternoon of their Christmas party! Our daughter was supplying and serving refreshments to the class and I was promptly invited to go with her. But that wasn't all!

In the evening the teenage group of singers and instrumentalists Ginni leads, in their church, had plans as well. This group, plus this Grandma, braved the extremely biting winds of a downtown city to bring a message of God's love, in song, to a mission in Aurora, Ill. If I didn't count my blessings after that experience, I would be ungrateful, indeed. But what a time I had keeping up with their young vigor as they sped down those city streets from where we had parked the cars. Ginni pulled at my arm with urgent intent. 'We can't be left behind, here, Mother,' she half shouted. 'It isn't safe.'

'Well I'm not sixteen, you know,' I huffed and puffed back at her. But we made it.

Our other son in Jersey is working with young boys in a form of Christian scouting in his off hours from his job as conductor on the Pennsylvania Rail-road. The youngest daughter, along our traveling way lives at Racine, Wisconsin. She is a third grade school teacher.

So it is that we are fortified for winter by happy memories. We even attended a Gospel Rock Concert, where I sat pitying my ears and worrying about the imperiled hearing of these young enthusiasts.

That is one thing the patient penguins don't have to fret about. Their young can grow up in majestic and frigid quietness. And I can go on crocheting on my granny afghan, hooking in all these varied memories, along with some great winter reading. I have come to a sudden conclusion. WINTER IS WONDERFUL!