Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Seasonal feelings

Being cold.......
Memorable cold feelings over the years: Ice skating one wintry evening visiting my folks' friends in northern Illinois. As usual, the "pond" is just a flat lot flooded a few inches deep to accommodate kids playing hockey. We've brought our skates and would rather skate than play games indoors. The temperature....10 below zero, but our folks figure we'll come in when we get cold. And we do.
"The Big Snow" in Chicago: I was in third grade when we had that two to three feet of snow in the Chicago area. We were out of school for a week and reduced to eating reconstituted dried milk on our cereal in the morning. As Lucy would say: "BLECHHH!" When we finally returned to school, a friend and I got completely engrossed in building tunnels through the prairie drifts during recess. Eventually we noticed that we were the only kids outside. I don't know how long they would have left us out before someone came to look. I do know everyone stared when we blundered back into our classroom, chilled, wet, and embarrassed.
Building bays one through four of the big greenhouse. Blake and I put those up by ourselves one fall, which drifted into wintertime before the structures were ready to cover. We were desperate to have something plastic ready by Christmastime when our "help" would be home on vacation. We put up polygal on days hovering near zero, fumbling for the drill, dropping self tapping screws, warming ourselves for ten minutes at a time in the pickup. Finger aching, protesting, screaming, extremities. Beyond numb.
The winter Lee was born. We lived in the little house with no furnace. We froze the pipes to the washer; we hung blankets on the doorways. We sat in the kitchen when we were awake and slept under the electric blanket. The snow that winter was the deepest I've seen in Atchison county since I've lived there. It didn't melt until February 28th, the day after Lee was born.
In the cold farm house department, the New Year's night we spent in the rock farmhouse in Callaway county. No heat up there either. My sister had the electric blanket and I had lots of conventional blankets. That night I learned that one could have blankets enough to physically smother, yet not keep out the cold. An educational and frigid experience.
Funny how its much easier to remember being cold than being warm. Memorable warmth would be Christmas Eves in Grandma Nelson's front room; lots of people and a red hot oven. The roaring fires in Millie and Charlie's old house. The kitchen at Spruce after baking coffeecakes, or apple breads, or even just running the dishwasher. Getting off the airplane in Hawaii! One of the most appealing visual manifestations of warmth happened the summer we traveled to Ireland. That day we'd visited the grand park dedicated to the horse; it had poured all afternoon, completely overwhelming all attempts to deflect the water with umbrellas or coats. But that evening, we stopped by an elegant, low slung hotel. It reeked of class with beds of red tuberous begonias, framed horse prints, quiet carpets. The bar area was more akin to a drawing room, with fine legged divans and chairs in civilized groupings. But there was a cheery fire banishing the memory of the rainy afternoon, and mugs of the best Irish coffee I've ever tasted. I felt transported to another ecosystem, shedding my corn fed Midwest skin, donning, at least in my imagination, a cape, black riding boots, and leather gloves. It is still a magnificently evocative memory of the kind of warmth that has little to do with absolute temperatures themselves.

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