It’s Not the Cold That Bothers Me
Long before the animated film, Frozen, took the world by storm, I frequently claimed, “Being cold doesn’t bother me.” Tropical climes have never called to me. Summer has always been my least favorite season, the best part about it is that’s it is just a season, not a year-round condition.
Winter’s shoulder seasons, Spring and Fall, delight my senses and my heart. But, ah Winter itself! I still get a childlike thrill from the first snowfall in late autumn. Snowy days call to me to abandon my indoor tasks and go for a walk. Snow days close the schools and become spontaneous holidays for everyone with enough to see that earth is calling a halt, begging her children to slow down.
The magic works for me every year until February when suddenly some inner busybody gets going and whines, “Enough, already, what happened to the sun.” The reality hits that winter with its chilly winds and bleak skies, its slushy, dirty piles of old snow or puddles of sloppy, umber mud will hold sway for another month. I begin to resent my friend for being a hog, for demanding more than his share of the year.
Let’s Get Out of Here
And the yearning to “leave it all behind” takes over as it has every February since the early years of my marriage. Before we became parents, Jay and I invented a yearly ritual that we dubbed, “Looking for Spring.” This trek was motivated by the simplistic notion that places farther south than our Chicago home had to be warmer, and, therefore, must welcome spring before it arrived on the shores of Lake Michigan. We both worked for the county, so we’d grab Lincoln’s Birthday or Washington’s Birthday (they were two separate holidays in Illinois in our early married years), take one or two vacation days, and a weekend, and start driving south, determined to keep going until we “found” Spring.
This quest was necessarily a purely personal endeavor because it’s close to impossible to find a consensus on just what constitutes Spring and when it begins. We had no clear-cut definition in our heads. Our hearts, we knew, would tell us when we crested a horizon and found Spring waiting on the other side. Usually, this meant true color of some kind – not grey or brown shades. It
could be the sight of a hill of daffodils or crocuses or just the almost neon green covering a newly budding tree. Bright colors were not the only signifiers. Softness was the other. Winter edges are crisp, clean, dark. Spring spreads a haze over the landscape, a light dusting, a young girl slipping a frothy gauze dress over bare limbs.
An easier world by far to navigate than the slush and snow we’d left behind, it assuaged us, making our thoughts and feeling more pliable, expanding our possibilities. Our conversations as we sped along were dream dialogues. Wouldn’t it be fantastic, we speculated, to be always on the road, never quite knowing what the next bend would reveal? We blocked out different scenarios. We focused often on the possibility that once Jay graduated from law school, he would apply to the diplomatic core.
When Jay had been in high school, his father had been offered a position in Saudi Arabia. The possibility of moving to such an exotic location thrilled Jay and he urged his dad to seriously consider the move. He spent many a family dinner mounting his arguments, trying to engage his sibling in his excitement so that they too would campaign for this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. All to no avail.
His mother would have been horrified to move to another state, let alone another country. Her life was tightly bound to that of her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her family had lived in Chicago for three generations and were pillars of Chicago’s Irish Catholic bastion. Life away from that community was unthinkable. Also, she had heard how women were treated, or so she said, in the Middle East. None of that for her, thank you very much.
Now that Jay found himself plodding along the expected path – albeit as a
lawyer, not a doctor – he chafed at the confinement. If his Dad couldn’t break loose, maybe he could. I couldn’t help but foster those dreams. I had never meant to fall in love in college. In my best-case scenario (girlhood dream, that is), if I married at all, it would be after age thirty. In the meantime, I would travel the world as a foreign correspondent for some, as yet unnamed news service. In high school and college, I narrowed down those travel dreams to places where the first language was my beloved French, which would I dreamed make it possible to span the globe as I worked.
Love, however, is one of those life events that happen while you are making other plans. Jay had come into my life and once he was there, I couldn’t imagine life without him. My hopes of becoming a journalist had been set aside, but being a diplomat’s wife sounded like a close runner-up.
So, we talked, dreamed, drove and somewhere in Kentucky or Tennessee, we would finally find Spring. Checking into a cheap motel that accepted animals (Champagne, our tabby cat traveled with us.), we’d settled down for a few days to breathe in as much warm air and flower perfume as possible before turning around and heading back to our hometown, where flora remained frozen until late March.
By the time, the first crocuses and daffodils appeared outside our Chicago window, we’d forgotten our southern dreams. Studies and work absorbed our daily grind, and once again the fear that we’d remain forever infertile sidetracked our blither imagination.
What notions grab you when Spring Fever takes hold? Please share it right here in the blog.
“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
― Mark Twain