I grew up in Detroit, where the snow hit the ground in early November and stayed through April. Michigan’s license plates said it was a Winter “Wonderland,” which was true if your idea of wonderland was “many opportunities to shovel.”
Winter temperatures often dipped into single digits. It was so cold that seconds after you stepped outside, the contents of your nose would freeze.
Every morning we waited on the corner for the school bus, our breath visible in the icy air, so bundled up we looked like a bunch of little Michelin men, in bulky jackets, snow pants, thermal socks, sturdy boots, scarves, face masks, hats and, of course, mittens.
We didn’t dress this way to play in the snow for hours. We dressed this way to be able to endure 10 minutes of standing around.
Our goal? Not to freeze to death before the bus turned up.
When I graduated from high school, because I didn’t know any better, I went to college in Chicago, where winters aren’t just cold -- they’re insanely cold.
Due to wind chill, it was often sub zero, the kind of bone-chilling cold that made your teeth hurt and eyeballs ache.
My fellow students envied my new fur coat, not because it was stylish, but because it was super- warm.
Of course, to cross the winter campus in my fashionable fur, I still had to wear snow pants, heavy boots, a thick wool scarf, mittens and a face mask. The result was far from elegant.
I’ve since realized that I not only looked dorky, but also cruel and insensitive, but that’s another essay.
The moment I graduated, I moved to California, where the weather was so delightful it was crazy. I could walk outside wearing shorts in December! Swim in an outdoor pool in January! Ride my bike year round!
Did I throw out my mittens, settle in the sunshine state and live happily ever after?
Not me. Within a year, I was back in the land of harsh winter, attending law school in Boston. After which I moved to Bangor, Maine, where the climate meant, my new neighbors joked, “eleven months of winter and one month of bad sledding.”
It was only when I became pregnant with my son that I finally had the sense to come in out of the cold. I moved to suburban Philadelphia, whose winters, compared to those of Detroit, Chicago, Boston and Bangor, are mild and manageable.
Sure, we occasionally get snow storms. But two days later, the snow melts, and you can walk around outside without a hat. Only little kids wear snow pants here, and I don’t own a single pair of mittens.
Not that the folks who grew up around here appreciate any of this.
The moment the temperature dips into the 30s, my neighbors and co-workers start complaining about the cold.
“Cold?” I scoff. “This isn’t cold. You Philadelphians know nothing about cold. We transplanted Michiganders laugh at your idea of bad weather.”
Since moving to this area, I’ve enjoyed three decades of delightfully mild winters. And my son, who had the great good fortune to grow up here, got to enjoy, rather than endure, winter weather.
So after graduating from college, did he decide to settle here and live happily ever after?
No way. He moved to California. Where, no doubt, when the temperature dips into the 50s and people begin to grouse about the cold, he’ll respond “Cold? This isn’t cold. I grew up in Philadelphia. Now that’s cold.”