Reader Anne Crandall was about 7 when she walked to her Laconia, N.H. Catholic grade school during an icy New England January. Along with her younger sister, Cyndy, Crandall was used to the daily trek that made its route along Church Street and over the icicle-laden bridge above the Winnepesaukee River.
So the two sisters walked. Until they got to the bridge.
"The bridge had cathedral window openings," Crandall said. "You could stick your head through them, if you were little."
But it wasn't the openings that compelled Crandall to pause on this particular day. Rather, she was enthralled at the ice formations that seemed suspended in a frozen state of time over the bridge's concrete.
"I was so compelled to lick the ice," Crandall said. "It looked so pure, shiny and smooth. There was something about that texture on my tongue."
If you remember the scene in "A Christmas Story," where Ralph and his buddy dare a classmate to lick the flagpole, you'll know what's coming.
"I figured my tongue would just glide over it like a Popsicle," she said. "I didn't know it would stick!"
With her tongue now held firmly in place, panic set in.
"I remember it being a weird feeling; stick your tongue out and pretend it's stuck - it isn't hard to do!" she said with a laugh. She remembers it sticking for a minute, just long enough to learn she should have known better. "I think the heat from my mouth made it unstuck. Fortunately by that time, the tongue had let go."
Her tongue intact - albeit numb - Crandall made it back to school and home for her daily lunch, where she's pretty sure her sister may have told on her.
I asked Crandall what lesson she learned from her bridge-licking days.
"Don't lick a bridge." She chuckled. "And somewhere along the way, I learned not to lick metal in the winter; I think that was from someone else's mistake - I've heard of kids' taste buds staying behind on a metal pole in the winter!"
I don't know about taste buds freezing to metal, but I do know Crandall's youthful heart for life and art plays out in her fascination for ice.
"I like ice cubes, icicles, frozen puddles and frost - it forms the most beautiful shapes and patterns," she said. She also enjoys steps on icy puddles just to hear them crunch. "I like to pick up sheets of ice from them, like they're pieces of glass."
As for shiny and smooth icicles, Crandall still likes those, too. "But I don't lick them," she added."
Judy Halone is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. Copyright © 2008 by Judy Halone.