Twenty years ago, I laughed at people who complained about winter weather in North Carolina.
How seriously can you take people who raid the grocery store for milk and bread at the mere mention of a snow flurry? How can you not poke fun at school systems and businesses that shut down twenty-fours in advance of a predicted snow storm?
I hate to sound like a stereotypical old codger but when I was a kid we needed six inches of snow on the ground and the threat of more before the superintendent even considered closing school for a day. I recall quite a few mornings on which my brothers and I would reach out into the snow to measure the depth with a wooden ruler. Oh, the disappointment of only three or four inches...
During college at SUNY Plattsburgh in upstate New York -- just a short beer run to the Canadian border -- when the winter weather finally gave way to a day above 45 degrees, you would find many of us outside enjoying the sunshine in shorts and t-shirts.
If you wanted to go tubing down the Saranac River that ran behind the dorms, you had to do it in April, when the spring runoff from the mountains raised the level of the river high enough to keep you from bashing your head on a rock. The water was a bone-chilling 50 degrees. I still remember washing up on the wrong side of the river and trembling for a solid hour before regaining enough control of my muscles to walk back to campus.
When my Lovely Wife and I began dating in 1992, my future Father-in-Law would constantly offer me sweaters or jackets when he saw me leaving their house in 40-degree weather without one of my own. He was a lovely man, and well intentioned, but I doubt anything he wore would even have wrapped around my thigh, let alone cover my torso.
And it didn't matter, anyway, because I wasn't cold. I was in North Carolina. Hundreds of miles south of where I grew up and almost one thousand mile south of where I went to college. During my first ten years combined in the Tar Heel State, I barely witnessed more than an inch or two of snow. Quite quickly, my wardrobe changed from flannel shirts and knit sweaters, to short-sleeve shirts and year-round flipflops.
But lately I've noticed something peculiar. Whereas I once sought out light coats with no heavy liners, I am now the owner of several winter-weather jackets. Even my mild-weather jacket has a liner. I'm wearing gloves again, too. I have this pair of black leather gloves I've owned for several years that now, inexplicably, are with me where ever I go.
Perhaps the most rattling indicators of my thinning blood are in evidence at night.
My Lovely Wife gets cold somewhere around the end of August and stays that way until the first of July. As a result, every winter we drape our bed with an electric blanket. The first one we owned had one control for the entire blanket, meaning she would be toasty warm and I would slowly dissolve into a puddle of sweat. We now have a blanket with two controls. Well, this winter my side has been on just as much as hers, and more often than not at the same setting. This wouldn't bother me so much if I found myself waking up at two in the morning to throw off the covers and cool down, but I don't.
The final evidence of my acclimation to the Southern climes, however, came just a few weeks ago. One evening, I scurried to the computer in the basement family room to work on my book after the rest of the family had fallen asleep. Before I realized what I had done, I was wrapped in the pink Snuggie my Lovely Wife keeps in the game closet.
So, in twenty years I've gone from running around outside in shorts and t-shirt in 40-degree weather, to sitting in a 72-degree carpeted basement wearing socks, long flannel pajama pants, long-sleeve shirt, and wrapped in a pink Snuggie like some refugee from an alternate lifestyle monastery.
I'd love to keep writing about all this, but unfortunately I have to go. They've just called for a dusting of snow on Thursday, so I need to run to the grocery store to stock up on bread and milk.
© 2010 Mark Feggeler