The Deep Freeze

by Bella Rum

One of those cheap, self-stick thermometers is plastered to the outside of my office window. We aren’t out of the teens yet. We’re finally having an honest to goodness grab-your-hat-and-don’t-forget-your-gloves winter here.  Ruth has written about winter in her last two posts, and she’s posted some beautiful winter photos. She lives where the cold temps still haven’t become a stranger, and she loves winter. So do I.

I can’t recall how many times last year that I lamented the demise of winter in our neck of the woods. I pined for glistening, dripping icicles and the sort of snowfall that sends one in search of carrots for noses, and old scarves and hats for snowy men who are fashioned out of nothing more than white precipitation and youthful imagination.

We used to have deep snows and hard freezes when I was a kid. As we trailed off to bed, I could hear my father ask my mother, “Did you leave the faucet dripping?”

“Yes,” came her reply.

“Did you open the cabinets beneath the sink.”

“Yes.”

Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

The house was freezing when we woke. Placing your feet on an icy floor for years will make you appreciate central heat when you get it. Still, I loved that old oil floor-furnace with the metal grate on top. It offered a central source of heat. My brother and I would huddle around it, holding our hands out to be warmed. He used to place his pants over it till they were toasty warm, and then he’d slip into them. The first time I ever woke in a house that was already warm was the first time I ever experienced mouth-watering luxury.

My father was a waterman and we lived on the water, so we probably paid a little more attention to the weather than the average family. I can recall years when the entire boat harbor froze solid, and we walked across to the other side. My father said he used to skate on it in the 1920s and 30s.

There were times when the oyster boats were frozen in place, paralyzed until nature took mercy. Sometimes the watermen couldn’t work for days and even weeks. That doesn’t happen any more. The boat harbor hasn’t frozen like that in over thirty-five years. Even though this is a pretty cold winter, it hasn’t even thought about freezing over. Not like that. Not even close. It has to be very cold for very long for that to happen.

So I’m enjoying this winter. Though we haven’t had the snows of past winters, it has been cold enough to qualify as a real winter. While many of us are feeling the cold, Dad and his generation remember winters where the cold was not a snap but a prolonged event, and he had to work outside in them. It’s only another reminder that it takes years and years to acquire perspective. It just can’t be had overnight.

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