Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Do You Do to Stay Warm?

On Wednesday it was a gorgeous, sunny, 65-degree day, perfect for my hike. On Thursday, the temperature fell like a hawk on a bull snake to 25 degrees. With the furnace kicking in every 20 minutes throughout the night to maintain a crisp 63-degree atmosphere, a memory floated to the surface from my days in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

In the autumn of 1979 I began my third year of college. Nick (Norma), Mel (Mary Lynn), Lynn, and I rented a small, dilapidated, old house on Niagara Street, or Niagra, depending on which sign you looked at. In the dark, musty basement of the place lived the Octopus, a huge-bodied furnace with about eight thick arms that could never reach the two bedrooms upstairs. From October till May that house was freezing, particularly Lynn’s and my bedroom, yet our heating-oil bills ran about $350 a month. I don’t think they insulated houses the year that place was built.

The memory was of my roomies and me arguing about who would wash the dishes. After all, there was only so much hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps we could drink and we all wanted to be warm. So we’d come back from classes, eat dinner, and then, almost in unison, shout, “I get to wash dishes!”

“No, I do!”

“No, me!”

Hands in hot water is one way we could keep warm.

That 30-year-old memory led me to thinking of what others do to keep warm. So I asked a few friends.

Anita, who turns her thermostat down to 59 degrees at night, covers with an extrawarm comforter, and probably blows steam rings from her pillow, uses a little space heater in her office to keep her toes toasty warm when working. Banjo Bill says he puts on a vest.

Sam can’t handle anything less than 70, except his women. When cold weather sets in, he aims the thermostat lever at 80 and books a flight bound for Florida or Mexico where he frolics for weeks till he thinks it’s warmer back in Colorado. If I look at my book, though, I’m pretty sure that every year he returns to cold weather. He should be like my relatives. Mom’s brother and his wife, as well as her sister and husband, each have a home in northern Wisconsin and another in a warmer climate: Jack and Becky winter in Arizona, Shirley and Duane, in Florida.

Cherri, who hails from and moved back to Miami, handled Colorado’s occasional cold weather quite well, even driving in snow, albeit way too slowly. One night we had a sleepover at her place and what she laid on top of us was not an ordinary quilt. It felt like a 300-pound concrete patio. It pushed the air out of my lungs and left me motionless all night. I don’t believe the weight added any more warmth than a light blanket would have, and it reminded me of something I was missing in my life.

In Wisconsin, I remember some gals would pack on weight and guys would grow beards. I guess I could let the hair on my legs grow, but if I ever wore pantyhose…ew! like hair in a hairnet. Joe Namath wearing pantyhose comes to mind—dressed in drag before it came in vogue.

Me, well, I enjoy my morning coffee, half milk with honey, and a vigorous hike after working a while. If it’s too cold to hike, I vacuum and stand on my hands, but not simultaneously. A hot computer sitting on my lap makes work less frigid, and throughout the day I sip tea or my warm, milky concoction. Hot soups, chili, and other tomato-based meals make cold days more tolerable. Even red meat starts sounding good if I can get past the thought of slaughterhouses. Before dinner I might slip into my appetite suppressant, the hot tub that keeps me warm for hours and contributes to a better night’s sleep.

During the day I wear up to four layers on top, two on the bottom, and at bedtime I quickly slip into stretchy pants, socks, and a cami while a heating pad warms my sheets and jammie top. My room probably smells more like America’s Test Kitchen than it does a bedroom.

One story I’ll never forget is when my daughter, Ivy, was four years old, five inches of snow had fallen and was still coming down. I stuffed her into snow pants with suspenders, matching coat, scarf, and boots, then put her toddler’s toboggan in the Trooper and headed for the park.

A long, flat stretch of land runs adjacent to the parking lot and sits only feet from a perfectly sloping hill, great for sliding. The snow was sort of sticky, so I had to push the toboggan several feet to get it going. After a few trips down the hill and trudges back up, the snow smoothed out, making the journey slider friendly.

Being considerate, Ivy offered the next trip down to me, so I climbed in, held on to the toboggan’s edge lips, and Ivy pushed. Halfway down and still not gaining momentum, I turned around to give Ivy a quizzical, I-don’t-get-it look and found her dragging behind me, holding on tightly to the toboggan’s back lip. My shocked look melted the tricky little red-cheeked prankster into a warm puddle of laughter.

We all have cold-weather stories, but what do you do to stay warm?

1 comment:

  1. We, here in Florida, are experiencing lows in the 50s and are bringing out the blankets, sweaters and even turning on the heat. We don't turn up the heat to just warm up but to also bring down the humidity a tad from 65-70%. We yearn for the dry heat of Colorado and Las Vegas. Thanks for the Colorado memories - Vickie & Michael Fisher.

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