Yesterday, waiting for the bus with my son, I realized I hadn’t even checked if there was school. I mean, it felt a bit chilly, you know. I checked, and it was -11F with a windchill of -23F. Huh. Do we have school at this temperature? Then the bus drove up and my scrappy little 40 pounder got on and it drove away. I guess we do.
Last winter, Wisconsin got hit hard. We got a good pile of snow, early, and then lots of colder-than-normal weather. (No, not Boston-level snow, or Syracuse-level snow, thankfully. I mean, I’m claustrophobic enough in two feet of the stuff.) Months of cold, cold weather. Everyone whined, wrung their hands, gnashed their teeth, or, at least I did. I threatened my husband that I would just drive south one day, and never come back. I remember a morning at the bus stop when it was -7F, no windchill, and I felt like a super hero for being out there during the worst cold ever. I know exactly what my son was wearing because we had prepped for twenty minutes to be ready. And then we had another month of identical or even worse weather. What a difference a year makes.
Granted this year has a lot going for it that last year didn’t. We didn’t get any snow accumulation until a few weeks ago, so that miserable trapped feeling has had two months less time to develop. Also, we’ve been miraculously much healthier this year. Even without MS symptoms to worry about, we’d been slammed the two previous years with every cold, Norovirus and Strep bug out there. Pnuemonia. Uncountable ear infections and sinus infections. But not this year. We’ve had two mild colds make the rounds through the family and that is it. (Please, please, please, don’t let me jinx this.) Maybe it is because I have a new policy for the kids–As soon as you walk in the door you
get yelled at to wash your hands. Now. Or maybe it is because we’ve been through two years of trading germs with the other kindergarteners and we’ve had everything there is to get.
Other things that have made this winter “not so bad” is our collection of amazing gear we have amassed over the last few years. We have been the very lucky beneficiaries of ultra-tough and warm snow pants from neighbors and cousins. A Land’s End “end of season” sale filled out the rest of our warm gear with fleece hoodies, down vests, jackets, hats and water-proof mittens. (This sale was in January. January! Clearly this was a decision by someone who doesn’t actually live anywhere near Wisconsin, where winter doesn’t even get going until then.)
Other things that make life so much better include slippers, flannel sheets, area rugs next to the bed and in the bathroom, and seat cushions on the dining room chairs. See, if your butt or your feet get cold in January, they don’t warm back up again until June. It’s true. An anniversary gift/Christmas gift to me this year was two tube skylights, one for each of the dark corners of the kitchen and living room. Actually, let’s not be coy. This is a gift for everyone because the house doesn’t feel like a strange, toy-filled mausoleum any longer and a happy mom is good for everyone.
I just read that this cold snap has a name, “The Siberian Express”. Not as thrilling as last year’s “Polar Vortex”, but still has a chill to it. I want dibs on naming next year’s cold snap “The Inuit Icing” or “Arctic Smother”.
Oh, and Santa brings SmartWool socks and hand-knit neck-warmers because the gift of warmth is the gift of love. If you’ve been really good, Santa brings unstinkable wool base layers or sweaters, silk long underwear, low-light ski-goggles or lobster gloves or Yak Trax for the husband who bikes year-round, or “ninja” suits (thermal underwear) in awesome colors. I don’t have smarty-pants wool underwear or a down trench coat…but I know what’s on my wish list for next year! When you list it all, it sounds like a huge investment. But if you consider that you’ll wear these things every day for four months, that whole “cost per wear” thing evens out pretty well. (Also, you can wear SmartWool socks over and over and over…) And it makes daily sub-zero waits at the bus-stop no big deal.
If you got cold just reading this, I recommend having a hot cup of tea, then finding all the jackets, boots, and cold-weather gear you no longer use and donating it to a shelter in your town. Today. If you are cold at the bus stop, imagine how homeless people and kids without snow pants are feeling. And check on your neighbors and your water pipes. And your heaters! And floss your teeth! You get the idea. Be kind to each other. It’s cold out there.