Thursday, January 1, 2009
I passed by the shop window and then doubled back, looking intently at the bright display of cozy hats, scarves, and other winter finery. I moved towards the entrance, divided into three separate areas by two stalwart, hard grey detectors before turning back to the clear glass with a resigned sigh. I could buy the cozy array of winter things, but it hadn’t yet snowed. Red, yellow, and brown dotted the suburban landscape announcing the presence of the still bearable fall weather.
I thought of the first snow. I looked down at my hands, picturing them red and chapped from the freezing winds. My lovely shoes would have to be sacrificed as well to the stinging wetness of the snow as it fell softly in the open spaces between fabric and foot. How I would love for just one year not to suffer the unbearable pain of numb fingers and toes, of virus following cold following virus. But how to break tradition? A tradition so strong, it has stayed with me through twenty three winters.
Often, as a child, I would wonder if my mother had simply forgotten that winter was going to come again this year. Perhaps it was just the hope that this year the clear, easygoing briskness of fall would overcome the freezing enemy and last till spring. It never does. And my mother never stops hoping.
I don’t know when the tradition started exactly, but as far back as I can remember, warm outer garments were never bought until absolutely necessary, until the first snowfall announced the inevitable arrival of yet another winter. In my teenage years, I would flip through the popular clothing catalogues in confusion. 'Why are they selling winter things in the fall,' I would wonder? It’s not cold enough yet for such heavy sweaters or such warm coats.
It’s a testament to my supreme intelligence that it only took me several years or so to figure out why the catalogues were right and my mother was wrong. Perhaps I became more observant as I aged, but I began to notice how everyone around me was nice and toasty warm when I was trying desperately to pull my thin coat even tighter around me without exposing my hands, or neck to the frosty onset of winter. I experienced an epiphany of sorts as it dawned on me that they were prepared. The reason for the advance marketing of winter things became clear and the new intelligence struggled with the forces of tradition comfortably ensconced in my psyche for so many years.
And so I stood and stared at the warmth so easily available to me, yet so far removed. I looked once more towards the imposing, but inviting entryway before turning and heading in the other direction. I’ll come back soon, I thought. After all, it hasn’t snowed yet.