Craig brought tettemilk

''NORWEGIAN!'' I scoffed. ''The seventh grade could have chosen French, German, or Spanish, and you voted for Norwegian?'' I admit we had ancestors from Norway, but let's face it; in today's shrinking world, quite a few foreign languages are more practical than Norwegian.

Although our son, Craig, did well and obviously enjoyed the course, my displeasure continued. Convinced that he'd be just as fascinated with any other foreign language, I wondered why he hadn't opted for a more popular, functional one.

Norse had never been spoken in our home, and, as older people left the mainstream of community life, its lilting phrases were heard less and less on the streets of our small town. Even in a region so rich in Norwegian heritage and Old World culture, I couldn't find a single, valid reason to clutter a modern student's already crowded curriculum with a useless language.

One day Craig needed a half-gallon of milk for a mysterious assignment. It was to make a sour, yogurtlike concoction called ''tettemilk'' (tettemjolk) and pronounced ''yech!'' by his classmates. Each child had his own project turning out a variety of Nordic delicacies, from kringle to krub, sweetsoup to sild.

Some of these foods were familiar favorites; others were so strange and distasteful, even to youngsters of Norwegian extraction, that the teacher based part of their final grade on willingness to sample each dish before passing judgment.

Then, on a rainy Tuesday, a chattering group left the junior high and headed for a nearby nursing home to share their assigned foods with the elderly residents, along with song, readings, and slides of Norway.

Craig came home excited. ''The grandmas and grandpas had such a good time!'' he said. ''They understood my poem, and they sang along with our Norwegian songs , and they kept smiling and thanking us and taking hold of our hands . . . and you know what they really liked? My yucky old tettemilk! They made a big fuss over it! I never knew I could make anyone so happy in my whole life.''

Well, that was when I realized my mistake. No language is useless as long as anyone who loves and understands it is alive. Useless? Not something that brought so much joy both to those who received and to the children who gave.

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