It’s April in Florida. The temperature will creep close to 90 degrees today, they say. So it’s going to be a real mind game for me to write about December in Minnesota.
It’s been years since I weathered a Minnesota winter, but it comes back to me if I let my mind wander back in time. Mittens, boots, jackets/snow pants, and hats/scarves. Layers. With my AC running and ceiling fan spinning, I remember socks in layers, numb fingers/toes, and feel my warm breath against the scarf wound around my face.
Choppers, we called them. They were the best mittens to wear if you were going to be outside for a long time. It’s basically a two-part mitten – the first part wool (black/white weave, if I remember) covered by a heavy leather outer mitten. They couldn’t be beat for long afternoons sliding with our neighborhood gang of friends, but if the snow was wet and sticky (perfect snowman snow), they’d get heavy and wet and eventually the cold seeped through. Then you ran back home to pull on two pair of whatever mittens were left in the basket.
Sorel boots were the Cadillac of winter footwear – I think they still are. They have a thick, felt liner that goes inside a leather/rubber outer boot. I didn’t own a pair as a youngster, so wearing two pairs of regular socks and my wool skating socks was the next best thing. When your toes got numb, it was time to go home (sort of like when the street lights come on).
Winter storms were the best. School was canceled, and once the shoveling was done, we were free to go sledding with friends down the alley behind our house. We made chains and doubled up if someone didn’t have a sled. We raced side-by-side to see who could make it farthest down the hill, blinking our watering eyes and wiping our runny noses on our sleeves. We even used a blue, plastic boat once, with limited success due to steering challenges.
Once the storm passed, the weather generally got colder, dipping to degrees below-zero. The snow got crisp and hard, crunching under my boots. My nostrils stuck together and the wind hurt my face. The sliding hill remained empty, waiting for the thermometer to rise above the zero mark. I stayed inside, reading in a sunny corner of the living room, near the heat vent.
We crunched on icicles, made snow forts, and had snowball fights. We ice-skated at the local rink and sledded on cardboard down the big hills at the zoo. And when the tingly numbness set in, we hurried home for hot chocolate with bobbly marshmallows. I think I’ll head to the kitchen and fix a mug, for old time’s sake.