Just the other morning, that violent whip of winter came calling yet again. I stared bleary-eyed out the living room window at another heavy dusting. My shoulders dropped. I grew another chin. That was it. Game over.
For lots of people, winter works. For other nutbags like me, December’s barely manageable, January’s a disaster, and February’s the bully that always chases you home.
February is the polar opposite of December, the black sheep of winter. There’s no bells to be heard under February’s watch.
As a proud indoors man, I treasure warmth. I can’t get enough of it. And I dislike nothing more than feeling a cold wind cut through my pant leg. Second to being an indoors man, I’m a slacks man. Slacks and winter don’t jibe. Their alliance buries my composure.
If allowed, February will decimate one’s thinking. For instance, I was standing in front of a friend’s house the other night looking into the night sky. The sky was pure white. No streets lights needed. Snow was everywhere, high, crystal-colored walls of it boxing me in. I started envisioning a Cold Katrina where snowy, thunderous winds crash like the Hulk through the skies. Frozen bodies found everywhere; on Colonial rooftops, in beds, in cars, huddled under tabletops inside abandoned Chinese restaurants.
Now do you understand the power February holds over me? Like a thousand Panzer tanks, it flattens me.
It’s best to just succumb to this wicked season, as I have. Don’t let it dictate to you. And don’t feel bad about turning your house clothes into a greasy hole. Sure, that UNH sweatshirt can walk on its own by now. But if that rag’s your shield from February, then I’m down.
Personally, I prefer Cheetos.
Years back I stopped pretending to enjoy winter. At the time I was working as “food manager” of the Paul Bunyan Room at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, N.H. Strewn with canned jalapeno cheeses and frozen buffalo chicken wings, my stand was my perch, a porthole into the psyche of these Lovers of Winter. They’d pass my station each weekend, hilariously clogging along in their ski boots, heavily entrenched in dampness and sweat.
Ever been forced to take a good, long gander at some skier’s thawing, runny nose? Unsightly stuff. And because of this I haven’t skied, gone sledding, navigated an ice rink, or considered snowshoeing in 15 years.
Recently my son asked, “Daddy, can we go sledding?”
“You watch your mouth, smart guy,” I replied. “Now get upstairs and draw me another picture of a beachcomber.”
But Mother Nature does what she wants throughout February. And she lays it on thick, purposefully, I believe. Hence, the single-digit mornings, our bloody, cracked knuckles, bloated, pale faces, cantankerous dispositions, and abhorrent bellies. Each characteristic is delivered by Ma with varying degrees of exactness as she winters away in India straddling her prayer rug.
Because without this grueling month we don’t harden. And harden we must as New Englanders. Mother likes her children loose, but never so loose we lose sight of the power of the Grand Shiver.