As the polar vortex swirled around D.C. in January, I have never heard and read so many references to my home state.
In the Washington Post:
MINNEAPOLIS — This hardy city, more or less unfazed by Sunday’s sub-zero temperatures, is taking no chances with the kind of weather forecast for Monday, when the low is predicted to be minus-24 and the wind chill could drop to minus-50.
But even Anderson acknowledged that not every part of life can continue as usual. “You’re not going to go outside when it’s 30 or 40 below and go skiing,” he said. “You wait until it warms up to about zero.”
And pipes froze all over, as Southerners, who are not born or made for temperatures in the Minnesota digits, had to consider things that they usually take for granted.
Outside, the temperature was downright frigid, even by Minnesota standards. The thermometer read minus 15 to minus 20 degrees for most of the day.
You'd think the rest of the country thinks it's cold in Minnesota.
Of course, I do too. That's one of the reasons I long ago went to college in Virginia and part of the reason I stayed. I love making snow angels and ice skating, but I'm not a skier and I do think there's something a little wrong about needing to plug your car into a heater every night between, oh, November 1 and May 30.
So I was rather surprised to discover this week that I haven't lost all my natural Minnesota antifreeze after all. As I pushed my 3-year-old's stroller back to the house one Tuesday after walking my second-grader to school, I was shocked to realize that I was actually warm, maybe even sweating, at a moment when the temperature in Arlington was all of 11 degrees.
Admittedly, I had bundled myself and the girls up, with three layers on bottom (wool socks, fuzzy tights, pants) and four on top (base layer, lightweight shirt, long-sleeve shirt or fleece, and finally, a winter jacket). Remembering all the threats of "exposed skin could freeze within minutes!", I also wrapped a scarf around each of our faces. Lastly, I tucked a fleece blanket around the little one since she'd be in the stroller.
Why didn't we just drive? As a veteran Minnesotan, I know that riding in a cold car isn't really all that much more pleasant than just walking, and given our .25 mile walk to school, it's actually faster to walk than deal with the traffic jam of minivans at the school entrance. Plus, after just finishing a story on pedestrian safety in Arlington where I interviewed county staff about crossing guards, I felt duty-bound to make sure our crossing guard's chilly work was justified.
And yes, I also had that Minnesota cred to uphold. You don't get many chances to do that in a place that calls this a snow day and cancels school.
But the best part of this week's polar vortex has been the memories that the deep freeze has somehow thawed out in my mind.
My best friend and I shuffling in our moon boots and snow pants between her house and mine. Positioning that year's sled just right on the top of the hill for maximum speed and (we hoped) minimum wipeouts. Racing against each other and pairing up with our younger siblings in various combinations of sledders. Yelling sayings from "Little House on the Prairie" as we hurtled down the hill. Convincing our dads to take us all to the "big hill" at Brownie Lake, where we didn't have to worry about cars or sidewalk snowbanks cutting our rides short. Trading new sleds to see how they each performed. Holding on for dear life as we flew over the unofficial moguls and hoping we didn't land--hard--on our tailbones. Rewrapping our scarves as our breath condensed, froze, and melted over and over again, until we, chilled and overheated all at the same time, hauled our snowy selves back home for hot chocolate and buttered toast.
Way too many years later, I find myself doing the same with my two little girls on snow days. We raid the refrigerator for carrots and cranberries to make the features on a snowman's face. We drag our sleds to the Little Supervisor's elementary school, which has amazingly great sledding on its back fields. We do snow day parties with nearby friends, where we bundle up the kids, nibble on homemade goodies, and allow our kids to discover the joy of playing with a friend's toys. We eat way too many marshmallows, toss a cracklelog on the fireplace, and snuggle up in comfy blankets on the couch while the mittens, hats, and scarves tumble in the dryer.
Productivity can wait until tomorrow. It's a snow day.