Until the end of last week, it was a pretty mild fall here. People talk a lot about how rough the winters are but I was thinking, “Ah, everyone is said that is someone who has never been through a winter before.” I was wearing my heavy fall coat, a nice Quicksilver fleece-lined jobbie I bought in beach haven last summer, light hat and light gloves and was fine. Still riding my bike everywhere without a second thought. We were all doing the same.
Then came last Friday. Oh my. The temperature plummeted, the air grew raw, the wind was so strong that in Eli’s room it sounded like a man howling and we sat in the living room staring in slack-jawed amazement at the wildly rocking bamboo shoots in our neighbor’s backyard. That was three days ago and it has been that way ever since, with the temperature actually dropping another degree or two. Saturday morning we had our first snow, though it was just a dusting.
As best I can tell, it’s 19-20 degrees. That comes from weather.com. You can’t pick up the morning paper and look. Anyhow, it has been really cold and bitter. It really has felt colder than 20 degrees. That is probably in part due to the initial shock of the first real cold snap, but there is also a certain rawness that it quite different and distinct. The air is so dry that with the heat cranked, I feel like I am living in some sort of giant dehumidifer, having the liquid sucked out of my pores. My knuckles are cracked. My lips are chapped, my eyes are drying out. I’ve been setting up humidifers in every room and they definitely help but only so much, I am living on Refresh eyedrops, chapstick, Eucerin and No-crack hand crème.
Another factor is that this house is just ridiculous in terms of weatherproofing. You can stand by a window or one of the patio doors and feel the air coming in like they are open. The walls are all cement (which also makes hanging anything up very interesting). Jim McGregor, the fellow who bought this house way back when, told me “they were made by Singaporeans for Singapore” and that seems about right. In design and everything else, they are tropical houses. But we are decidedly not in the tropics.
You know how, in the Midwest and Northeas,t they refer to cold fronts as “Arctic air?” Well, here they talk of Siberian winds. Take a look at a map. Siberia’s not all that far away, and now it really feels like it’s here, or we’re there. We are still riding our bikes and I was really proud of Jacob this morning. On our way to school, we came around a bend and hit a very strong, very cold, very nasty headwind. I was pulling Anna and Eli in a little buggy, so they were covered and safe, but Jacob was trudging along. It became very hard to ride, my eyes were tearing, my lips frozen. Jacob stopped and was sort of walking his bike, with his foot atop the curb. I could see he was about to dump the bike and lose it. I talked him off the edge, got him to keep going and encouraged him all the way up there. He made it.
On the way into school, his friend Peter came by on his bike. He had a hat on under his helmet and scarf wrapped around his neck and face. All of that skin was sort of exposed on Jacob. We got up tot the bike area and there were just a few there. Just last week, it was so jammed, you couldn’t find a spot. Jacob became very proud walking in with Peter – the tough guys still riding their bikes — and I was glad I got him through that rough spot rather than giving in and having him crawl into the back with the other two, which I almost did. I brought him a neck gater after school and that worked well. He even got it up over his ears a bit.
Driving to school is a real problem because there is no good place to park, so I am going to do everything to keep this going. It’s good for all of us. If it stays this cold or keeps getting colder, this is going to be a long winter, however, and I will take back every thought I had that people complaining about the winter were wimpy.
My neighbor Theo said to me today, “At least you are getting a break,” because they are staying here through Christmas and New year’s. And that’s true. Of course, we are making our annual winter journey to everyone’s favorite cold weather getaways spots – our Rust Belt tour will take us to Detroit, Bay City and Pittsburgh in addition to New jersey. The rivers are beautiful when they’re frozen! I pointed it out to Theo and she said, “Yeah, but it’s a break. You’ll see.” And I know I will.