Living in the south, winter was a brief annoyance that loomed in spurts of cold fronts and chill spells. Down there, people knew that winter was a joke. (Hurricanes and summer heat were the real terror.) But people still bought coats to keep warm for the couple months when we lived between cold fronts that brought temperatures from the 80s down to 55-60 degrees. Then occassionally, we would have the colder nights when temperatures dropped down to the 40s. People stayed inside then – there’s no reason to be out on such a night. And then there’s the ever-looming fear: will we get a night or two this year when the temperatures dip down to the 20s?
When there’s a slight danger of such freezing nights, the local news anchor people like to hipe the fear with 24 hours of newflashes: A FREEZE IS COMING!
And the people scramble to Home Depot and buy out all the insulations to fortify their homes, and raid the grocery stores for water, batteries and canned goods. That was winter and it’s dangers for the people of New Orleans. But most often, if anybody were to live or visit New Orleans during January or February, they would find that the natives find winter annoying.
In the early mornings, adults leave for work and children go to school wearing coats – head coverings are optional because it ain’t that cold to mess up your hair for. By midday it has become so hot that coats are just hateful, burdensome, cumbersome things for adults to thrown in the backseat of their cars, and for school kids to drag home. A sweater by this time is preferrable, but if you stay in the sunlight for more than a minute, the sweater will guarantee a burn up, but leave the sunlight and you will need that sweater again.
So southerners never have the real opportunity to dress up lavishly in winter fashions like the New Yorkers that we see on sitcoms. It would just look plain ridiculous and totally out of place. Besides, New Orleans winter is the time when we see the northern tourists and we see them walking around town in tanktops and shorts.
It doesn’t really get that cold, but it’s cold enough not to wear such little clothing. These tourists stand out being under-dressed, and the natives just shake their heads. It all affirms the truth: the northerns are yankees, their food stinks, they don’t have commonsense – GOOD LORD, DRESS FOR WINTER! – and they have snow in their veins. You can tell just by looking at the way they dress.
And now I find myself living amongst the yankees and living in their world…
According the locals, this past summer was mild and wet. I shivered through it with sweaters and felt a sense of at-homeness with all the rain. I just wished I could have walked to a coffee shop and had beignets with the rain.
Then fall set in and so did my mental calculation of winter. I was cold walking the kids to and from school, but the fall foliage was a wonder to behold. I loved the golden colors. I told the kids, “You never can feel poor when you look at all the trees so full of gold.”
I stuffed my kids with reminders: dress warm. And they did wear their down-feathered coats to school when it was 60 degrees. The other kids came in shorts and tee-shirts. Nuts, crazy parents, I can’t believe how they dress their kids. The thermometer dipped lower as the season progressed and I watched a very slow change in the dress of the people here. Only did it get into the 40s did I see kids wear light jackets. Incredible!
We are still in fall and are just about the round the corner to January weather. We recently suffered through two weeks of freezing temps and just two days ago, it went as low as 6 degrees with a windchill of 10 below.
That’s when it was so cold that I actually saw people hauling ass. People were bundled tight and movements from house to car, and car to inside shelter were rapid. For those slow movers, their behinds frozed and fell – clink. The streets were littered with butts, so many that emergency vehicles were called to shovel them up to clear sidewalks. So, if you ever see any flatbottomed people, you now know what caused their condition. And I am happy to say that I was one of the fast mover, and even the moosier Hex didn’t dawdle.
Yesterday and today the temps soared up to the high 40s, close to the 50s. Yesterday, I walked out the house and sighed, “Ahhh, it’s a warm day.” The sun was shining, and the wind stopped howling.
The kids walked to school again. The two younger ones walked with me to pick up Ginger at the end of the school day. “Awwww, mom, can’t we drive?”
“No, it’s a warm day, let’s enjoy a walk.” We walked and enjoyed the outside again.
On the return walk home, someone asked: “Mom, can we have ice cream?” “Sure,” I said. “Yeah!” Mom loves us!
Moments later, another child tried pushing their luck: “Mom, can we play outside?” “Sure,” I said again. “Yeah!” Applauses for a kind mom that really does love us!
The kids got served in style. They each had a small of serving of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry in a cup, and then were sent outside. “Eat your ice cream in the sunshine!” I tried to yell as they ran out and banged the screen door – I’m sure they didn’t hear me.
Minutes later, I looked out the backdoor to check on them. They were sitting around in coats eating ice cream. They didn’t bother each other, so I left them alone to find some peace and quiet. On the second surveilance, I saw only abandoned cups and spoons. Upon further inspection, I located them busily chopping ice.
Chop, chop, chop! Each child had his/her own bucket of frozen ice and was lost in another world of pure imagination. I don’t know what steamed their little hearts and minds, but they worked on impaling the ice with vigor using tools from the garden shed. Ginger had an ice pick, Basil used a hammer, and Violet found a small garden trowel. They did this nonstop for about an hour.
It was a magical glimpse in the beauty of childhood and innocence. I don’t think people can ever pay an adult to duplicate such utter joy and contentment.
The joy and magic died quicker for me than for the kids. The sun was setting and the cold was seeping into me. I stopped fantasy and had them go in the house. I am slowly adapting and adjusting to the relativity of how cold is cold, but standing around for an hour just watching kids isn’t going to keep me warm.
I am learning and understanding northern attitudes and so I look at my old life in the south through different eyes. Cold now isn’t what cold was. So to all the people that I know in New Orleans, this is what northern life is teaching me: ya’ll are wimps, winter here would kill you quick like a coldsnap to the Creole tomatoes; your food can’t be beat, but you move way too slow, have too much fun, and are lazy. Ya’ll stink from sweating too much, always so happy about nothing, and the heat has gotten to your head. That’s the truth, Ruth… but I sho’ do wish I was there tho’.