When I first moved to the country and started making what then seemed like adventurous trips from our house in the middle of farm fields into town for groceries or haircuts or sweeper bags, I never failed to arrive at my destination looking like I'd traveled there from some distant, frigid climate.
When I first moved to the country and started making what then seemed like adventurous trips from our house in the middle of farm fields into town for groceries or haircuts or sweeper bags, I never failed to arrive at my destination looking like I’d traveled there from some distant, frigid climate.
I always wore at least one more layer than everyone around me. If others wore tank tops, I wore a sweater. If others wore sweaters, I wore a jacket. If others wore jackets, I wore a jacket with a sweater underneath.
Meanwhile, my daughter, who was 3 months old when we left Columbus and moved north, would be dressed even more snugly on the theory that babies were more fragile than their elders, in spite of the fact that Emily almost immediately began to prove me wrong by walking into the corners of tables and by climbing onto the kitchen chairs and from there to the counters and from there to the cupboards, not to mention crawling deep inside the doghouse.
But my point is, there we’d be, looking like February in the middle of April. It took me weeks to realize that the weather outside our house — which wasn’t really, as a friend said, “out in the middle of nowhere” — was not the same as the weather outside the grocery store. At our house, it was several degrees cooler. Not just once in a while; always.
Why? Well, because, all right, in that sense, the house was in fact in the middle of nowhere; virtually nothing blocked the wind that came whipping across the farmland from the north and the west.
In other words, the climate at our house was cooler than the climate in town. Was cooler and still is cooler. I know it’s just a matter of seven miles, but it’s seven miles plus farm field plus a steady breeze. It all adds up to a difference, and the difference is roughly one layer.
I figured I’d learn. But years went by. Emily got older, a sister joined her, and soon all three of us were walking into the grocery store on balmy June days looking like we’d just snow-shoed in from the Himalayas.
“It was chilly at home!” I’d hear myself insisting when kindly people asked my daughters about their earmuffs.
Even after the girls were driving, I’d be thrusting wraps upon them as they were running out the door with their bookbags.
“There’s frost on the grass!” I’d bleat at them until they slid their arms into jackets. Later, they’d report that they were the only ones in the entire school wearing jackets. I’d believe them, having been to town myself by that time, and noting that not one other person had felt it necessary to wear mittens.
“I’ll learn,” I continued to tell myself, but to be frank, I seemed to be a slow study. In fact, well, take today. I had a morning appointment, and when I left the house, I believed myself perfectly dressed, in corduroys and a long-sleeved top.
Two hours later, appointment concluded, I stopped at a supermarket and almost immediately felt the way you feel when everyone else is dressed one way and you’re dressed another — how the clown who wanders away from the circus parade and into the funeral home calling hours might feel, for instance.
I began to cast glances here and there. Sure enough, all around me were dressed in capris and T-shirts, just exactly as if it were mid-summer. But I saw the thermometer! I thought indignantly. It was chilly outside!
Halfway home with the groceries, however, I had to concede: Chilly it might have been, back at my house at that hour of the morning. It definitely was not chilly now. Unseasonably hot was more like it.
At times like this, I like to recall the Blizzard of 1978, or rather, just after the blizzard, when people were finally permitted to venture out of their homes and follow the snow-plowed roads to the stores for groceries. The weather was still well below zero and the winds were still high, though they’d dropped below blizzard range.
My husband and I went to town in his truck, and for the first time — and also the last, though we didn’t know it then — we realized we were finally both dressed to the teeth for winter and dressed appropriately.
No one else was, as we took pleasure in noting. Well below zero outside, and people without hats! Frigid winds and people without gloves, with their jackets unzipped, with nothing on under their coats but a T-shirt! Nitwits! Do they think it’s spring out here? Don’t they know we’re recovering from a blizzard?
I wasn’t thinking about the blizzard as I flung myself out of the car this morning, though. I stomped into the house and up the stairs to change into something more appropriate. Will I ever learn? I said to my face in the mirror.
Well, I have the answer to that one. It’s been more than 30 years. The answer is no.
Margo Bartlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.