Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter Wears

Last week before the temperature dropped to twenty-plus below, my wife, Rhonda spotted a couple dozen robins, wrapped in their winter wear, eating the berries that had fallen from the cedar trees. It was a puzzling site: robins, usually a harbinger of better days to come, were in Minnesota dining on berries that had not been there the day before. And these robin red breasts were full-figured, or at least they appeared to be. But it could have been that their otherwise fit flying form was hiding under their winter coats.

In addition to a winter coat or two, I have my own winter wardrobe: fleece-lined hooded sweatshirts, flannel-lined jeans and flannel shirts (you see the pattern?). They’re starting to look washed-out from the uniform attention I have been giving them. I’m not sure if this winter qualifies as an “old-fashioned” winter (lots of snow and bitter cold), but I think we’re close. Of course, I don’t walk almost everywhere like I used to when I was a kid, so it’s hard to gauge it from the warm side of a window.

Depending upon the school I was attending, our house on Church Street was somewhere between a few blocks and a mile (as the boy walks) from school. Sometimes I got a ride, but most of the time I walked, especially during my junior-high years when it was considered unfashionable to have your mother drive you to school.

I would walk with Tom and sometimes Andy to school.  When it was really cold we would turn our backs to the wind and go in reverse. Another boy in our neighborhood, Arty Joe, most often ran to school. No matter how cold it was, he only wore an unlined sweatshirt, the kind that zips with a hood (the one I have is reserved for spring and fall). On really cold days Arty Joe would zip up his sweatshirt and run to school, while the rest of us made our way bundled up with heavy coats, mittens, hats and scarves (sometimes borrowed from a snoozing snowman).

Once, during a blizzard when the streets in town were impassable, my brother and I were forced to walk to church with our dad. Dad set a quick pace even in the deep snow. In June it was hard enough to keep up with him, but that Sunday morning it was especially difficult as I tried to match his footsteps in the drifts.  The only other people in church that day came on snowmobiles (for the fun of it I guess).

Of course after church, there was shoveling and snow blowing to do, and it wasn’t just our driveway.  Dad took it upon himself to make sure that everybody in the neighborhood got a look at his snow blower from their living room window, as one of us went door-to-door clearing driveways.

Now I rarely take my tractor out of my yard, as most of my neighbors have skid loaders, tractors, trucks with plows or their own snow blowers. Nobody walks to town out here; I live too far from church to walk there, and I don’t own a snowmobile. About the only thing that has remained the same over the years is that I still have a scarf (lawfully purchased), gloves, hat and a heavy winter coat. But old-fashioned or not, this winter wears on me and the robins.

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