Now that the holidays are behind us—and the January sales are upon us—how do we cope with all these frigid, dark days? It’s not like spring is around the corner; we still have to slog through February and March (possibly the cruelest months). Yes, I know there are plenty of people out there who embrace these cold winter days because they love skiing and snowboarding. Otherwise the fancy winter resorts in Colorado, Utah, and Idaho would go belly up right along with the more modest mountain inns and time shares on the East coast. And there would be no such thing as artificial snow.
As for other winter sports, I’m aware that a giant segment of the population (mostly male) adores football and basketball. Despite losing records for all the New York teams, both Henry and Max love watching these sports on TV. Both father and son are ardent Giants fans (though less enamored of the Knicks these days, with their record 5 wins and 35 losses). Still, there are plenty of people—women and children included—who flock to football games OUTSIDE, despite snow, ice and sub-freezing temperatures. I haven’t watched an outdoor football game since Max retired from his flag football league in high school. These days, when father and/or son flip the TV to football, mom opens a book, or escapes to another room to call a friend. But I never escape entirely because I can still hear the loud, drunken cheers and groans coming from the bar, Bounce, directly across the street from our apartment.
Of course, weathering winter is easy for the so-called “snow birds” and (usually long-time empty nesters) who migrate south for the winter to Florida: Palm Beach, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale etc. Ah, the lure of warmth and sunshine…. Not only do these affluent retirees escape the bone-chilling temperatures of New York—currently 20 degrees—but they also skip out on the hefty New York City and state income taxes, IF they’re willing to stay south for six months and a day. Many snow birds also manage to lure their chicks and grand chicks down to Florida to visit over school vacations and these folks enjoy watching grandbabies build sandcastles and frolic on the beach. A few of my friends have parents with condos in Florida, and thus the opportunity (and, yes, the obligation!) to visit every winter. While some of my friends don’t look forward to these winter family visits, right about now I’m shivering with envy.
My mom lives eight blocks away in a ground floor walk-up, and she is hibernating for the winter. She only ventures out in the frigid weather when absolutely necessary. Mostly, she stocks up on essentials and books from the library in advance of sub-freezing temperatures, sleet, rain and wind chills. Exceptions to Mom’s hibernation include holidays, birthdays and celebratory occasions with her family. Staying warm is a lot more difficult for her than for a well-fed bear. My mom, age 87, is frail at only 98 pounds; in addition, she has bad arthritis and takes blood thinners for her heart so she moves slowly and gets cold easily. Her baby bear (me) has taught her to layer up with a down vest under her down coat, along with sweaters, shirts, scarf, gloves and hat. I shudder to think how long it must take her to bundle up just to go to the drugstore or supermarket.
I refuse to hibernate even though I hate the cold, dark days of winter. As I get older, (and I’m far from frail), I find myself needing to wear more clothes to stay warm. I also have a harder time waiting for buses or racing other shivering New Yorkers for cabs. (Thank God for Uber and apps). On the other hand, my 24 year old twins, Max and Sarah, seem almost oblivious to the cold. Often they don’t bother with hats and gloves—and neither one EVER carry an umbrella! Even when the twins were little and Henry and I took them sledding in Central Park, they never complained of being cold.
Even when their mittens were damp from the snow or their cheeks were red and noses running, they pleaded: “Please, please, let’s go down the hill one more time.”
Meanwhile I wondered whether my fingers had frostbite inside my gloves. That was back when we planned winter escapes to the Caribbean with our children over school vacations. Whether it was Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Barbados or St. Martin, we always flew some place warm. In those days, Sarah (on the autistic spectrum) had been especially explosive and difficult; swimming and frolicking in the ocean for hours on vacation had delighted and finally exhausted her. And when Sarah was happy, Henry and I could finally relax (while still taking turns watching our daughter to make sure she didn’t float away and drown). While Henry dozed on a beach chair or tossed a football with Max, I alternated reading and glancing up at Sarah, our aspiring mermaid.
Now that Max has flown the coop and Sarah is rarely home, we haven’t planned any family vacations (winter or summer) for the foreseeable future. Our (mostly) grown up kids have their own plans. They hang out with their respective boyfriend and girlfriend (as they should). Sometimes, when we’re missing our twins, I have to remind Henry that we used to dream of the day Sarah had her own friends and boyfriend, instead of tagging along with us or staying home alone. That dream, at least, has come true. Now we are weathering the winter as a twosome, which means going to the movies, out for dinner with friends, and occasionally to theater or a museum. Oh yes, we’re also shopping January furniture sales, re-feathering and converting out family roost into a cozy couple’s nest.