Friday, December 22, 2023
It’s the first whole day of winter. The days are officially getting longer and normally the temperatures would be getting colder but since it’s 60 degrees today, I think someone forgot to notify the universe of the season change.
Don’t worry, I’m not complaining. Winter is my least favorite season, and I can’t say I hate it, because I’m not allowed, but also because I don’t really hate it. I just don’t like it very much. It comes with a certain malaise, a certain ennui, a certain je ne sais quoi.
To be fair, it isn’t winter that I dislike as much as the cold. I can’t say I hate it, because I’m not allowed, but I do abhor being cold. I am fundamentally opposed to being cold. I realize this is unlike most other humans on earth, who turn the AC down to 60 the minute the temperature rises above it, and there is a perverse faction of people who still walk around in shorts in January.
But winter has its perks, namely the ability to wear giant oversized sweatshirts with sleeves that hang down to your knees. I like winter clothes better than summer clothes. The colors, for one. Summer clothes tend to be baby-nursery pastels and fairly boring khakis. But winter clothes give you wine-red and blackest black. Deep azure and forest green.
And sleeves. At this age, sleeves are wholly underrated.
Winter gives you soft fleece and furry sweaters. Fuzzy slippers and cushy socks.
The only thing that would make winter clothes perfect is if they included flip flops, because I do prefer those to shoes, but it is a sacrifice we have to make.
Winter comes with other perks, too, like all the baked things. Sure, you can bake any time of year but when it’s 95 degrees in the shade, you are less inclined to want to put on the oven. But winter is ideal for baking all day then diving face first into a basket of bread all night.
Winter clothes are a lot more forgiving when you eat an entire basket of bread.
And while I am glad that the days are getting longer, because I wilt like a sunflower in a closet during winter, there is a certain coziness to long, dark evenings with a lot of candles and a set of string lights or two.
Plus when the sun sets at 4:30 it always seems later than it really is, so when you look at the clock and realize it’s only 6pm, you get a little excited that there are many hours left for you to sit in your couch crater and relax.
Unfortunately for winter these days, the best part of it is the part that seems to have perished with my childhood: snowstorms.
They just don’t make snowstorms like they used to, do they?
The best part of winter as a kid was hearing that weather report calling for snow and wishing and praying that school would be cancelled. Waking up to a blanket of snow was a little like having Christmas all over again.
There was nothing quite as disappointing as a snowstorm that started in the middle of the day because inevitably you knew it would be done and plowed before the buses had to roll out the next morning.
But overnight snowstorms, those were the best.
You could hardly sleep if there was snow in the overnight forecast. You’d be too busy waking up and peeking under the shade to see if it started yet, or if it looked serious enough to warrant a stay-home-and-bake-cookies-with-mom day.
I loved the big, fat snowflakes and how quiet and peaceful the world got, as if it were just settling down for a long winter’s nap under Mother Nature’s pristine blanket.
I’ve never been a morning person, but on snow days I could bounce out of bed at 6am and bundle up in coat and hat and gloves and boots, and join my father in shoveling the driveway. Shoveling snow with dad was almost as fun as having him pull us on a sled through the drifts. Almost… but it was quality dad time, so I enjoyed it.
I remember snowstorms where the walkways were mere scratches in a world of white, with towering walls of snow on either side that were taller than you.
I remember ice storms that were pretty spectacular, too. They happened when it rained, and the temperature was just cold enough that the water froze on every tree branch and pine needle, on every blade of grass and twig. The ice would envelop the world and the tops of the trees would bend to the ground in supplication.
Whoever invented the phrase winter wonderland was clearly watching an ice storm.
Winter in Tennessee is not nearly as interesting. It doesn’t snow very much, but even a dusting will cripple the state. And since it usually isn’t that cold, most of the precipitation you get is just wet sludge and drear.
Still, when it does happen, I enjoy watching it fall. If I have a cup of tea and a cookie, even better.
And even though I have not been in school for decades, I still get a little thrill when there is an overnight snowstorm. I pull my afghan up to my nose, light a few candles, and relax into the knowledge that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t leave the house until it stops.
I’ve heard that this winter is supposed to be one of the mildest we’ve had. That’s fine with me, but it didn’t do me any favors today because I had a refrigerator full of carrot cake and dinner ingredients, with no place to put the water jug or the gingerbread cocktail syrup I just made.
I was going to put the excess out on the balcony because winter is a natural refrigerator, and that’s when I realized it was 60 degrees.
So I opened the windows instead.
I suspect I won’t be any more fond of winter this year than I ever am, but for now I’m not minding it. And if it snows at some point, that will make me happy. My sweatshirt is ready and all that will be left to do is decide whether to make cookies or cupcakes. I suspect it will be both.
Photo: a snowy tree outside our condo in Holmdel, and Brigantine in the background. It was actually snowing so hard you could barely see. Lovely!