Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Keeping Warm

I'm am trying hard to adjust my attitude about winter. My whole life I have hated being cold, even though as a child I played outside building snowmen dressed in dried leaves and twigs, dangerous snow forts, and searching for a pond somewhere on our 120 acres that wasn't too rippled for skating. Winter always meant chapped skin, fingers and toes aching with cold, and long series of respiratory ailments that seemed to last from December first until April. Of course when I was little we didn't have miracle fibers to wick away moisture, or insulated boots to warm toes. Our snow boots were the pull on rubber variety, good only to keep our shoes dry from winter slush. To keep me warm Mom piled on layer after layer of coats, hats, mittens, boots and scarves. She was a believer in scarves. We'd be wrapped around the mouth and nose, and eventually the moisture from our warm breath would grow a patch of damp frost over our faces. By the time I was old enough to ride the school bus I wore glasses. The warm breath that escaped upward from my scarf fogged my specs on the walk up our rural driveway, temporarily blinding me. The other reason I hated waiting to be picked up was that my vanity prevented me from wearing slacks under my dresses. School dress codes demanded that girls wear skirts, and the winter wind was cruel on my legs. I had a drawer full of tights and knee socks, but somehow I always froze.

These pictures show my aunt Ellen in a little knit snow outfit, and me in one of my snowsuits. The first photo is from about 1929. Even though there was no snow yet, Grandma obviously dressed her oldest child well for cold weather. I love all those little buttons, though they must have been miserable on a squirmy toddler. The other photo is me, about 1951, outside our trailer in my grandparents' back yard. I wonder where the scarf went?

These days I am grateful for all the new fibers that keep me warm in a house with the thermostat set low. And since I don't need to get up and shovel in the early dark anymore, and don't have to worry about how to stay warm and look professional at the same time, I am trying to learn to see the beauty of our Wisconsin winters. Now, if folks would just shovel their sidewalks...

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