Snow Days with Lanie

Alien Caterpillar

The series of snowfalls we’ve had lately remind me of some of my favorite Lanie snow memories.
One winter when she was in high school, we went to visit my brother Tim, who had a place on Bryce Mountain.  He and his family lived in Leesburg and came to Bryce often, so they were all good skiers, but Lanie had never skied.  So I set her up with a beginner’s lesson and sat back to enjoy and watch as she discovered the sport.  My sister-in-law Judy wasn’t skiing that day either, so we just sat in the sun chatting as the kids headed up the slopes.
Well, let’s just say that Lanie did not enjoy her first skiing experience (which turned out to be her last).  Even the beginner slopes were apparently a bit icy that day, and on Lanie’s very first slow and cautious run she lost control and collided spectacularly with an older woman and sent her flying.  Lanie was absolutely mortified, and swore to me that she’d tried it, not liked it, and was done with skiing for good.
But she was not done with snow — not by a long shot.  During her junior or senior year of college, she was home on Christmas break when we got a nice January snowfall, and began nagging me from the time I got up in the morning to join her for some snow play. I was in the middle of some reading I wanted to finish, but finally relented and we went to build a snow man.
Trouble was, even though we were able to roll up some good-sized balls of snow to form the snowman’s torso, the snow was too mushy and wouldn’t hold together when we tried to place the torso atop the base. Lanie was undeterred, as always, so we simply switched gears and transformed the snowman into a snow caterpillar. We made more giant snow balls and lined them up in a snake-like pattern in the front yard, then gathered stones and sticks to form the caterpillar’s face, and feathery branches to form the antennae.
Because the antennae were a bit odd and oversized, we decided this was clearly a mutant or alien caterpillar, and gave him a few more strange features … all the while laughing at how our neighbors were going to pass by and wonder, as always, just what WAS that creature in our front yard? And the eternal question: just what is WRONG with those crazy Kruszewskis?
But my favorite snow story that stars Lanie took place on a winter day when I was feeling really crappy — I may have even had the flu — and was in no shape to go out and play despite Lanie’s wish for a snow buddy.   So she headed out to the front yard on her own, where I assumed she was building a snowman.  Instead, she came inside half an hour later and said she had something to show me.
It wasn’t a snowman at all — it was a love note.  Lanie had spent half an hour tromping in the snow so she could spell out the message “I (heart) Mom” with her tracks.
The picture of my snowy get-well card hangs in my kitchen to this day.

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Seeds

Welcome to Lanie’s Orchard.
I chose the name because Lanie once told me of her dream of living in the country someday — not only so she could grow her own vegetables, but so she could have an orchard.    Knowing that I am more of a city person, she teased me that I would still have to come out to the farm for a few days at a time to see the grandchildren.  And so I looked forward, from that day on, to chasing Lanie’s laughing children around the orchard — and sitting down afterwards to feast on fresh-picked apples, peaches, pears and cherries.
So it’s not surprising that the first dream I had of Lanie after she died was of the orchard.
I never actually saw Lanie’s face in the dream; but I was walking with her sisters Leah and Jackie through a large open field, and I could sense Lanie’s presence behind us as she showed us around.  I could also sense her pride and happiness — especially when we came upon the fruit trees.
That was when I knew where we were and why we were on this “tour.”  Lanie was showing us her little piece of heaven.
I think about that dream often, and though I am heartbroken that I’ll never know the joy of picking fruit with Lanie’s children or chasing them in and out of the trees, it gives me some comfort to think of her tending her gardens and orchard.
And I have to say that I am looking forward to the conversations we’ll have once the time comes for me to join her there.
“You win, Lanie,” is the first thing I will tell her.  “You’ve made me a country person.”

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There was no single moment when I decided to start an online scrapbook about Lanie; it was more the steady day-to-day accumulation of tributes, news and developments.
During those agonizing days and weeks after she died, I collected and bound a bulging folder of letters from her friends, remembrances, photos, and cards.  Cataloguing and organizing all those mementos and tributes is what kept me sane during those days.  I wasn’t functioning or of much use to anybody otherwise — but I was going to make sure that every scrap about Lanie and her life were saved.
It’s normal to be inundated with cards and tributes at a time like that; but with Lanie, it all just keeps coming.  A year later, I have multiple scrapbooks.   Not only do I still hear every day from those who knew and loved Lanie, but I also constantly encounter people who never met her — and wish they had.  Complete strangers come up to me and tell me how my daughter’s story has touched them or affected them.  Only a month ago, I met the woman who for the last year has been putting flowers on Lanie’s ghost bike at the accident scene — often with the help of her grandchildren.   Carol Holt says she never knew Lanie, but she feels a strong connection to her.
George Throop, the amazing young man from Washington State who just completed a 4500-mile Walk Across America (enjoythewalk.com), also feels a powerful connection to Lanie.  George’s story about his Lanie encounter can be found at  Lanie.me/tributes.  I also wrote about George’s visit at http://www.henricocitizen.com/Opinions/article/cross_country_walker_hits_the_lucky_seven0705.
Carol and George are just two of the scores of people I now count among my “Favorite People I Wish I Had Never Met,” and I know I am bound to meet more.  I want to share these encounters with everyone who loves Lanie, in addition to sharing other ongoing news and developments on the Lanie front.
And so we plant the seeds of Lanie’s Orchard.  Thanks for joining me as we watch her legacy grow and bear fruit.
Patty Kruszewski

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