“Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.” – Robert Byrne
Last Monday night, a.k.a. Juno Eve, WFLA Channel 8 Tampa (“We’re 8 on your side.”) led off their evening news with the impending storm on the East Coast. The local weatherman could hardly contain his self-satisfied smirk as he predicted two or three feet of snow, gale force winds, impassable roads, power outages, and general winter misery. Then he and the anchor chuckled over the misfortunes of those poor saps who didn’t live in Florida. I wanted to slap them both.
I know winter, and it’s nothing to smirk about. New England is still reeling after last week’s pile-on. Right now, Chicago is buried under eighteen inches of snow, spoiling Super Bowl parties. Then the storm heads east to dump even more on the already-buried folks there. Not funny. No fun.
Of course, lots of people like winter — its bracing chill, the fluffy white stuff blanketing the lawn. I am not one of them. I have had my fill.
Like all Chicago kids, my sibs and I trudged through knee-deep snow to and from school, including the trip home for lunch. No one’s mom drove us to and fro in a heated car, since no moms had cars. No plows ever came down our street, and the ruts made by cars stayed there until after St. Patrick’s Day. In high school, we Queen of Peace girls in our plaid skirts and saddle shoes waited for the bus while the stinging needles of winter wind turned our bare legs into icy blocks of purple. On Christmas break during my freshman year of college, I broke an elbow when my feet flew out from under me on the iced-over street in front of my house.
Ah, winter! I’ve faced its obstacles every year, gritting my teeth, enduring, not enjoying.
I’ve crept along icy roads, my frigid fingers clutching the steering wheel, passing cars in ditches and hoping I wouldn’t meet a similar fate. I’ve jammed squirming toddlers into snow suits and wrestled preschoolers into their boots. I’ve fruitlessly scoured the aisles of Target for replacement mittens amidst the Easter basket displays. I’ve crossed windswept grocery store parking lots to stock up on essentials when frantic weathermen warned of approaching doom. I’ve been over-prepared at times, underdressed at others.
I know what frozen snot feels like, and ears that throb with cold. I’ve hunched my shoulders to ward off arctic winds ripping down my collar. I’ve blasted a car’s defroster in futile attempts to keep ice from coating a windshield. I’ve stepped in freezing slush, lost my footing, and landed in gray sidewalk vichyssoise. I’ve hoisted shovelfuls, some light and fluffy, and some dense and leaden, off the driveway. I’ve carped at my kids to shovel and to keep their hats on. I’ve layered up when my classroom’s windows barely contained the arctic winds outside. My family and I once spent the night on the basement floor of an Adair, Iowa church when a late February blizzard forced us off the road. I wear a scar across my eyebrow, because on one December 26 my car slid in snow and smacked into a car in the oncoming lane.
Any day away from the meanness of Old Man Winter is a good one for me. To my kindred spirits who are winter loathers like me, I wish you were here. Really, I do. You won’t hear a “neener-neener” out of me. Smirking at winter sufferers is not nice.