Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Being Southern in the Winter

It was 26 degrees this morning when I walked the dog. I wasn't even sure I could move at such a frigid temperature, but we managed a half hour stroll before I came home to warm up my numb, frozen limbs (as a side note, little blind 13 year-old dogs never get in a hurry no matter how cold; their odometers are perpetually pegged out at "amble"). Then I saw a friend on Facebook was in Wisconsin and it was -5 degrees and I had one thought: I can't. I couldn't. Ever.

There have been many times the hubby and I have been watching TV or a movie and the setting is some remote, frozen tundra covered in snow, one of those places where frostbite sets in after a few minutes of exposure. One of us will inevitably comment, "I would weigh 300 pounds if I lived somewhere like that. I could never leave the house, and I would just sit inside and eat." And the other person chimes in, "I would be stuck-in-a-bathtub fat." Doesn't that paint a lovely mental picture?

We had only lived in Charlotte for a couple of winters when we encountered the great snowstorm of February 2004. In one day, almost a foot of snow accumulated, and over the course of two days, Charlotte had nearly two feet of snow. The dog--a young pup at that point--could not have been happier, even though only the top of his tail was visible when he hopped along the drifts, investigating this curious situation. As much as I wanted to delight--I had never seen this much fluffy white precipitation in all my Georgia-dwelling life--it freaked me out. A lot. What if this was a common occurrence in the city where we had moved? Is this what winter would bring in North Carolina? Thankfully, that was a very uncharacteristic winter, or the chances are high that I might be stuck in my bathtub from sheer shut-in gluttony.

February 2004, and all that snow!

You see, we Southerners just aren't cut out for the cold. We were made for porch sitting, sunny days at the lake (or better still, the beach), and asphalt hot enough to fry an egg. We can cope just fine with 100% humidity and mosquitoes the size of your fist, ergo we expect not to be troubled by sleet, ice, and frigid conditions. Winter hats are not conducive to our big hair, after all. Our feet are accustomed to traipsing around barefoot or in flip flops, not trudging on slick surfaces in clunky boots. And while I own about a dozen cute coats in every color, pattern, and length, I think maybe one of them may actually be warm...which was a side effect and not the main reason for purchase, I can assure you.

Growing up in northeast Georgia, we only got snow once a year, if at all. That meant no need for fancy frills like snow boots. Rather, whenever we got enough flurries to warrant sledding or outdoor playing, my mom would put sandwich bags on our feet, over our socks, and then put on our regular shoes. Our thanks to the fine family of Glad products for keeping us dry-footed and all-weather ready during the winter months. Nothing says we aren't geared up for the cold and ice quite like sporting sandwich bags on your feet.

You see,  we don't do winter down here. The best we can hope for is an inch or so dusting of snow, which will immediately and completely shut down every business, school, and government operation in the entire city, along with half the roads. Then we are free to play outside in the winter wonderland for approximately a half hour before coming in to the heat to enjoy the comfort foods we are so good at preparing. Southerners enjoy snow the most from the other side of a window, where it's warm and dry and cozy (and there are beverages and snacks).

We have a certain way we carry ourselves in the winter. Watch any good Southerner walk out into brisk temperatures and you will notice we all adopt the same "turtle" posture: shoulders hunched forward, head pulled down as far into our coats, scarves, and other winter accessories as we can manage while still keeping some type of field of vision. We want out of the elements as quickly as possible, and are reduced to just hurried head nods in passing rather than our usual hospitable greetings and small talk. It's a total departure from our normal way of life, this winter thing we have to contend with--especially when we're talking about what the weatherman labels "extreme cold." I personally believe the extreme part of that moniker refers to the lengths we will go to down South to avoid such bone-chilling, arctic conditions.

The forecast for Charlotte this weekend is calling for snow--a whopping one to three inches, which to a Southerner equates to a blizzard. The bread and milk sections of the grocery store are all but empty, and I'm bracing myself for some treacherous dog walks. I just hope I have some sandwich bags big enough for my feet.

Being Southern in the Winter, Exhibit A: How We Shop
Being Southern in the Winter, Exhibit B: How We Drive

Bundle up and stay warm out there, y'all! See you on the other (warmer) side!

1 comment:

  1. This cracked me up--what we would do down South without our milk sandwiches? :)


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