It’s December; it’s Illinois; and the weather is really weird. It was in the 60’sand 70’s at Christmas, and it’s normally in the 20’s and 30’s. What?!? I uncovered the air conditioner that was snuggly tucked tightly under a big blue plastic tarp steeling itself for the cold and gloomy winter ahead. With the unseasonable warmth outside and the heat from the oven inside, it was 75 degrees in the house before anyone showed up for dinner. I turned on the oscillating fan in the living room, cracked a couple of windows, and ran the a/c on low. After dinner and the oven had been turned off, it started to cool off around 5:00 pm and a chill eked into the house paving the way for turning off the a/c and closing some windows. It was still nearly 70 in the house, had become comfortable for some and downright nippy for others.
In more than 60 years of holidays, this is the warmest one I can ever recall. El Nino has rolled across the globe less like a caballero and more like a bandito wreaking havoc all over the country. Tornados, howling wind, driving rain, downed trees and power lines, and heavy flooding leaving death and destruction in its path. Our house has suddenly become surrounded by a moat of rippling water just a couple of days after Christmas. Warmth has consequences, people!
There have been Christmases past spent shoveling the driveway and sidewalks in between baking batches of Santa cookies. With people expected for holiday celebrations and meals there would be nowhere to park on the street in front of the house or in the driveway. Icicles would form sharpened daggers hanging from the gutters all along the house and in front of the doorways. We would go around and knock them off the roofline with a broom to keep anyone from being hurt by one of these deadly weapons going rogue and separating from the other icicle soldiers. There were scoops and scoops of rock salt and kitty liter spread across the driveway, sidewalks, and pathways to keep people from slipping and falling on the slick stoop. The snow at times would be falling so fast that every hour we were out scooping. Every time the city snowplow cleared the street they buried the end of the driveway and shoveling would commence yet again. There were doorways filled with wet boots, coats, scarves, gloves, stocking caps, and ear muffs. Our eyeglasses steamed up every time we came into the house from the cold. There was steady foot traffic from the kitchen to procure some delicious hot chocolate infused with a swirling candy cane topped with whipped cream or mini-marshmallows poured into holiday Snoopy and Charlie Brown mugs imprinted with the ever popular Joy to the World circling the rim and taking their places on the various mismatched coffee and end tables found around the room. After all, it was Christmas in December in Illinois.
Our warm-weather clothes have been put away until Spring, we’ve pulled out the winter coats and boots and stacked the salt bags and snow shovels by the doors. We’ve put all the garden tables and chairs away, covered the statuary, put away and winterized as many things as absolutely possible. The screened doors are now glass storm doors, there’s plastic adhering to the windows for weatherproofing. After all, our favorite parties are ugly sweaters, and goofy sweatshirts, and we love big heavy woolen socks, mukluks, and fur-lined slippers. The candles glowing in every room smell like cider, pumpkin pie, or evergreens. Beige couch pillows and covers have been replaced with red or blue plaid. Gone are the flowery accessories replaced by red poinsettias and evergreen wreaths. Snuggly fleece blankets with snowmen or polar bears printed on them are draped across each couch and chair. We pack up one lifestyle and break out another. It’s an entire culture shift as fall turns to winter every year.
Us hardy, rosy-cheeked, cold-weather residents are always soapboxing about how we would love to live somewhere warm in the winter and leave the snow and ice behind. I am one of them. While looking to the heavens and pumping my palms to the sky I’ve been known to say, “Make it warm! I can’t wait until Spring!” We routinely espouse this rhetoric; but quite frankly, we really don’t have any idea what to do when the weather breaks tradition and decides to go topsy-turvy on us. I’m sure it will snow anytime now… Sandy