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Baby, it’s cold outside

- January 17th, 2014

Please stop telling me it’s January in Canada and I should just suck it up.

I have always hated the cold and I plan to keep doing so.

I realize that may sound unCanadian, but I have deep-seated reasons for my feelings about the frosty weather.

I believe my aversion to the cold goes back to when I was a kid.

The first country I ever lived in was the West African nation of Ghana (my parents were working for the Canadian government at the time as teachers). Not a cold place.

I spent my first few years basking in the sun and thunderstorms there.

When I was old enough to go to school, my family moved back to Canada, specifically Edmonton.

As my friend Dominic Ali would say, I went from the frying pan to the freezer.

In a way, I don’t think I ever got over the shock of going from one extreme to the other.

In Alberta in the 1970s, temperatures of -40 weren’t uncommon. And it doesn’t matter what scale you use, because -40 is the temperature at which Celsius and Fahrenheit converge.

Remember the polar vortex that went through Southwestern Ontario at the beginning of January? In Edmonton, it was that cold all winter long.

How frigid was it? My mother would put our winter boots in the oven to warm them up before my older brother, Mike, and I went outside.

On one family outing, walking through the snow to a cottage belonging to friends of my parents, my feet got so cold I started to feel sharp pricks of heat – one of the signs of frostbite. “My feet are burning!” I complained to my startled mother and father.

In Edmonton, there were only two months of the year when we didn’t get snow, June and July. We wore our parkas over our costumes at Halloween.

And unlike my brother, I never really found a way to use the snow to my advantage.

He and my parents liked to ski, a pastime I never really picked up. I have many memories of long waits at the bottom of ski hills for my family to come get me.

I did love tobogganing, that much is true. I guess that’s the closest I ever came to finding a winter pursuit.

We moved to Montreal, then settled in the country near London, but I never warmed up to winter, so to speak.

Now I am a warm-weather person through and through. When the winter gets to be too much, it’s thoughts of summer that keep me going.

At times like this, I picture myself wearing sandals, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.

I remember what it’s like to do something as simple as slip out the front door without having to put on long underwear, boots, a bulky jacket, scarf and gloves.

I dream of throwing down a picnic blanket in the dunes at the Pinery, then lounging in the hot sun as the sands of Lake Huron bake beneath me.

I look forward to a hot day in July, sitting on a patio with my wife and sipping beer. We raise our bottles of beer and I turn to Amanda and say, “It was thinking of this moment that got me through the winter.”

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1 comment

  1. the frozen west says:

    How well we recall Edmonton days of the ’30s – snow suits make from
    tartan motor rugs by our sewing-machine handy mothers, and fathers in
    spats and toe rubbers coming in with frozeb ear rea swollen like eggs f
    rom wearing just a fedora. Galoshes with buckles and wet mitts Snow
    suits only mandatory below zero F. How we envied the kids whose fathers
    were with the Bay and got real parkas from the north. For sheer horror,
    try being a first-grader caught short in the long walk home in frozen
    wet bloomers. Or the mother doing a rare school drop-off of a stubborn
    child, in just silver-fox-collared cloth coat tossed over a rayon nightgown,
    and the Essex stalled.
    No whining about going south in those days. We chose Alberta and lived
    up to its expectations of a stiff, likely frozen, upper lip.

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