Winter Isn't Always A Wonderland
Lisa Sussman lets us know how she really feels about winter here in EG, RI.
Baby, it is cold, cold, cold outside — and I hate it.
The Farmer's Almanac is predicting that this winter will be colder-than-normal for New England. Apparently, the choices are very cold and bitterly cold.
Frankly, I wouldn't mind this so much except that their crystal meteorological ball also shows that we are not going to get that much snow. Now that really makes me mad. I just don't see the purpose of winter without snow. It's like cake without frosting, Abercrombie without Fitch, The Captain without Tennille (those of you who get this last reference need to update your IPod playlist).
One of the many myths about New England is that our winters are Christmas card images of snowdrifts and sledding. They aren't. We may be only a couple of hours from the White Mountains but, as I write this, I am looking out the window at a sunny blue-skied day with temperatures ranging at the 20-degree Fahrenheit mark. These are not reasonable conditions for human beings, or even for penguins.
This kind of weather always surprises us locals – we seem to have fallen for our own myth of a snowy winter wonderland. As even the mildest snowstorm report demonstrates, we love preparing for disasters that will never happen. I was shopping for antifreeze at a big box store that shall remain unnamed (but I will put in a plug for Benny's who carries the same item but wasn't on my way home). Anyway, there I am, blinded by glare of the fluorescent lights when a voice booms throughout the store, like a prophet of doom:
''Be prepared for winter!'' it proclaimed, and went on to propose a long list of things I absolutely must have in order to survive the next few weeks: a snow brush, an ice scraper with a built-in mitten, windshield melt, lock deicer, an emergency shovel, a battery charger, booster cables, gas-line antifreeze, ice melt, seals, weather-strips, heaters, humidifiers and gas-powered snow blowers . By a lucky chance, the store was stocked with all of these things and more.
The signs of the coming winter siege are everywhere. Pharmacies have pushed out sun block and insect repellant to fill their shelves with cold and cough remedies. If you venture into a clothing store, you have to force your way through a jungle of bulging parkas, heavy coats, massive snow boots, scarves, mittens and wool hats.
My own winter preparations seem pathetic by comparison. I refuse to turn on the heat before winter is officially here (December 21), which has caused my children to move to their warmer-housed friends for the season and my cats to hiss whenever I cross their path (although I don't know what they're complaining about – at least they have ethically acceptable fur coats).
I live in a drafty old house. During the winter months, there is a valid argument for knocking these historical relics down and putting up an airtight modern edifice in its place. Our heating is pathetically inadequate. I have learned to type while wearing gloves and flip a pancake while wearing several layers of clothing.
We have Saran-wrapped the windows and put draft guards everywhere in a feeble attempt to keep the cold out. All this does is make the air so stale that we give out (wooden) clothespins gratis to visitors. I have tried the old trick of filling small bowls half way with vinegar or baking soda and dried herbs and this sometimes does the trick, though it seems to have the backlash effect of making me perennially in the mood for fish and chips.
I did manage to harvest the last of the garden for vegetable soup. Around November, I am so done with my garden. I want to stop weeding, preparing the beds for spring, cooking fresh vegetables and just go out for a pizza. I rationalize that collards, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach and cabbage all benefit from a touch of frost. Then, by the third cold snap, my inner miser takes over – why leave all those final bits of food – wind whipped as they are – to waste? I grab the scissors and bring it all in. I usually find a few overlooked carrots, beets, potatoes and onions. Snip, chop. Into the stockpot it all goes to simmer into a delicious rich multi-purpose dinner: add tacos and cheese and it's a Mexican soup, mix in a splodge of soy sauce, noodles and beaten egg and it's Chinese egg drop, throw in some white beans and serve with bread topped with Mozzarella and hey, presto! It's Italian night. I have actually managed to fool my family and serve a different variety of this soup for about five nights in a row. My real dream is to milk it out so that I never have to cook again.
One thing I have never been able to do is switch the ceiling fans to winter use. I know that they will circulate all that warm air that supposedly hangs around the ceiling but then, there has to be warm air in room in the first place – an assumption I strongly doubt. Also, there is something so antithetical about the idea of turning on a fan in sub-temperatures that I simply cannot bring myself to do it.
By Wednesday, the days will start getting longer and lighter. I can't wait. Truly, this cold weather doesn't suit my temperament. Any amount of heat is fine but I feel cold as a threat, especially when it doesn't let up. I would not have lasted a day on the ill-fated Donner Party – I may not have nibbled on a fellow pioneer's leg, but I certainly would have been quick to nab their deerskins.
In the meantime, I am left to ponder, Is there any way to speed up global warming? Oh, I know, the ozone layer. But frankly, the only layer I'm concerned with right now is the extra protective blubbery one I seem to put on my middle every December. It really doesn't go well with the sustainable beach holiday I'm dreaming of.