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Snowprints retraced

By Phil Kalber / January 27, 1982



Here are a dozen souvenirs from my trip though 1981:

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January's memento is this two-inch, solid brass finishing nail. Twenty years ago, when we moved to our present address, my wife had asked if I would attach a hand-towel rack under the kitchen sink. The years passed as wars, recessions, wage freezes, bowling and golf continued to stall the project, until last January the task was finally begun and completed. As I was about to drive home the last nail, my wife handed me this brass spike to commemorate the historic occasion.

For February, there is this beautifully framed rejection slip from the Reader's Digest. This item deserves such prominence because of the hand-written note, scrawled by the Editor himself, which reads, ''Sorry, doesn't quite make it!'' Collectors of such personalized memorabilia need not contact me, for I have no intention of parting with this priceless annotated repudiation.

Yes, that's a brand new snow shovel mounted over my desk under March. I bought this rugged, cordless, manpowered Snow Devil to cope with the record snowfalls climatologists were predicting for the Northeast last winter. As it happened, there were only three snowdrops, of less than four inches, which my wife and son are contracted to handle, thus enabling me to preserve this souvenir for posterity.

In this hermetically sealed display case is the original version of ''The Rotterdam Waltz,'' which I composed to memorialize the Bermuda cruise trip my generous mother provided my wife and me for our 25th wedding anniversary last April. The waltz had its world premiere at sea aboard the SS Rotterdam during a talent show presented before some 700 ''captive'' passengers. It was so well received that I anticipated an avalanche of future requests, and so had several hundred prints made. No such response materialized. Nevertheless, ''The Rotterdam Waltz'' is still a favorite around here - as kindling for our fireplace huddles.

May's remembrance was the first of its kind for me as a taxpayer - a federal refund of $2.17. I had suggested to my wife that this unexpected windfall should be applied toward a later model snow shovel for her when they go on sale in July. Her response will not be recorded here.

This slat of aluminum siding represents a tainted triumph that occurred last June on a par three hole tenaciously defended by sand traps and a duck pond. From the tee, I whacked my ball sharply to the right. It caromed off the side of a private residence, skidded through one of the traps, and stumbled onto the green, rolling to within six inches of the cup, where it was tapped in for a birdie. Elated, I flung my arms skyward, as did the owner of the struck house, with clenched fists, demanding reparation for the dent in his new siding. I replied he was being unsportsmanlike. He begged me to reconsider lest his snarling guard dog forget its good manners. Because of my high regard for agitated Dobermans, I quickly accommodated.

The next month's souvenir also concerns birds. This pretty blue tail feather was once attached to Midge, my daughter's pet parakeet, about whom I wrote on this page last July, which precipitated a suggestion from a California reader that I preserve my published nonsense between some book covers. I consulted my wife about such a prospect. She replied, ''Why don't you kindle a fire and curl up with a Reader's Digest.'' Why did I marry a truth addict?

No collection of souvenirs would be complete without a post card. This particular one, sent in late August from Sedona, Arizona, by my wife, informed me she would be arriving on Flight 714 at 1:33 p.m. I somehow misplaced the card. On the appointed day I was asking the airport clerk around 7 p.m. if Flight 133 would be on time, when I heard these terrible cries of anguish which I quickly recognized. Never was a 25-year marriage in greater jeopardy than at that moment.

Here is a September issue of TV Guide indicating the week I made my television debut on a local station, not as the renowned composer of the popular ''Rotterdam Waltz,'' but as a bowling contestant earning $9. It was a costly video experience for me. First there was the post-show ice cream parlor treat for family and friends, afterward the $20 parking violation, and finally the purchase of a pair of Calvin Kleins that happened to be on sale next door to the ice cream emporium which my fashion-struck daughter just had to have. If the tube ever beckons again, I will first have to apply for a federal loan.

The following item is a diabolical cube invented by some Hungarian schoolteacher who apparently taught students with short attention spans. The cube requires its possessor to scramble its six solid-colored sides, then, within one's lifetime restore the cube to its original status. Solving one-sixth of this most perplexing of puzzles seemed far more challenging than raking all those leaves last October.

I am writing this from our home's new 6 million dollar wing, recently completed in November. If this piece of ceiling plaster hadn't been influenced in the same manner as Newton's celebrated apple, my wife and I would never have thought of combining two little-used 10-by-10 foot areas into one commodious 10 -by-20 family-den-playroom. Thus, TV, reading, writing, homework and Scrabble schedules must be posted three days in advance so that there will be no conflicts of interest.

I'm rather embarrassed about December's representation, since all that remains is the cellophane wrapper. On this past New Year's Day, my family formally presented me with a solid chocolate Santa for the unparalleled self-restraint I exhibited during the recent holiday season regarding this delectable substance. As you've guessed, Santa has already met his belated gastronomical fate.

My wife just asked me to look out the window. While I have been composing, over six inches of snow has fallen. It appears my March souvenir's date with posterity has been canceled.