This has been a harsh winter. Amazingly enough, it was not the nearly 15 or so inches of snow before Christmas that opened my eyes to this reality. Nor was it the third time that I had to dig out my car. Indeed, this harshness idea didn’t occur to me even when my expensive, rear-wheel drive German sedan nearly slid into a taxicab on an icy street. It wasn’t even the roof leak in my newly remodeled kitchen and the continuous covering of snow seeping into the house. Nor was it the e-mails from my brother extolling the virtues of golfing in 80-plus degree Southern California weather. None of these things quite pushed me over the edge.
Having smugly extolled the virtues of summers in the East, I must make this admission about the merciless rigors of winter. However, as I try to explain to friends out West, conditions like this make you strong! What experience in a place like Los Angeles, Phoenix or Miami breeds a sense of mutual civic obligation like helping push somebody else’s car out of a pile of ice and snow? That is the height of altruism.
Winter also teaches self-reliance and respect for your neighbors. For example, I would never consider taking a street parking space after my neighbor had cleaned the snow out for his car. Having cleared a parking space in the snow for my own car three times now, I appreciate that if my neighbor is at all like me and came home from work in the early evening to find someone else’s car in the spot I had labored over and risked a heart attack to clean out, let’s just say someone else’s expensive German sedan might be worth a lot less when they woke up the next morning! call that social intelligence in the east.
I do wish all those years in Ann Arbor, Michigan and then in Madison, Wisconsin had left me with a passion for ice skating, snow shoeing or skiing. Sadly, there is no activity I look forward to in winter more than a steaming cup of cocoa laced with a heavy-handed shot of Tuaca liqueur. Yum, a true joy of the winter season, let me tell you.
Winter is a reminder of the old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. I was not. I told myself there would always be another day to get ready. Wrong! So, as a recent transplant back to the east from California, I had not bought a snow shovel for the house or a brush and ice scraper for the car. Nor, for that matter, had I stocked up on salt, other snow-melting chemicals, or gotten a bag of sand. No windshield wiper fluid either. Needless to say, that first trip to the store was arduous. And I felt pretty stupid out there using a broom to get the snow off my car (the neighbors seemed impressed with my, uh, resourcefulness). However, I did feel a deep if curious sense of kinship with the handful of other utterly lost folks wandering the cavernous aisles of Home Depot, desperately hoping to find the last remaining container of snow pellets.
Of course, I never got around to having the chimney inspected prior to the big snow. So far we’ve had to do without a nice, warming fire in the fire place. But when I checked the flue, it was not working. I just hope there is no family of squirrels shacked up in there!
And I’d forgotten the several different winter wardrobes the season requires. The coat and gloves and hat and boots you wear to shovel the sidewalk and dig out the car just won’t do for attending an elegant dinner party. The tattered and well-worn gray scarf that Mom crocheted for you back in the day simply won’t do when the occasion calls for the heavy cashmere overcoat and a natty silk Ferragamo scarf.
I’m still holding out against getting any of the heavy gear. No ski masks or long johns for me. No knee-high rubber boots to trudge through the snow. No electric blankets, either. Winter won’t beat me. And truthfully, we’ve been spared the worst of it. We’ve suffered only one relatively brief power outage.
All I really pray is that there be no more freezing drizzle. There is truly nothing worse than a light misting rain that then freezes over into sheer ice all around, but even that is nothing another Hot Tuaca can’t cure!