Chilly Reception

Commentary: Alphabet Soup

by Kristina Campbell
Published on December 8, 2005, 12:00am | Comments

When I look outside the front windows of my house, the sky is pitch black but the view is lit by bright white snow. I see recently barren tree branches blanketed by a delicate fluff. It's quite breathtaking, a true Kodak moment.

I hate it.

I hate winter. I hate its approach and I hate how it lingers and dwells and belabors. I hate the way ice forms on the sidewalk and camouflages itself, meaning I slip and land square on my butt -- or walk awkwardly, fearing such a fall.

Every year, the routine in my house is the same: We make our way through a sweltering D.C. summer, which I tolerate well while my heat-intolerant partner suffers. Then, as September offers a hint of moderation and gives way to October, when the crisp autumn pokes its head out, Kim gets excited. The chill in the air always, without fail, makes her giddy, and she always, without fail, expresses it to me. I always, without fail, tell her to shove it.

Okay, I don't say it like that. But I remind her, year after year, that the beautiful fall weather -- which I certainly think we should enjoy -- is simply the entryway to the freezing cold hell of winter. Icy, snowy, harshly calcifying the tips of your ears and nose, completely disregarding anyone's need for a modicum of warmth. Damned winter.

For that reason, I explain, year after year, that we should remain silent about the hints of autumn approaching. Celebrating it vocally is clearly an open-door invitation for fall to arrive and, by extension, for winter to storm in on its heels.

By the time it gets really cold, she sometimes acknowledges that I was right, and that praising autumn's first chill may not be the best idea. But several months later, when the mercury hovers relentlessly in the 90s or higher, she forgets all about my astute logic.

So we stand at something of a seasonal impasse. She doesn't really hate winter -- she has a good amount of respect for it as a season. I see not much at all about it that's good. I was born in late July, which may have something to do with my relative tolerance for miserably hot summer days and my dread of the gradual descent into cold. Or maybe not.

I also grew up in Iowa, where the winter is especially cruel. This may instead be the reason I so resent the approach of frigid temperatures, choosing to believe that I left all that behind. The first time I took Kim home with me for Christmas, we stood in my father's driveway in central Iowa as a -45 degree windchill ripped through us and, I swear, left icicles on our bones. She was miserable, and I thought maybe she'd better understand where I was coming from -- figuratively and literally. We're still working on the figurative bit, and after 10 years, it may be time for me to give it up.

Part of my resentment, I'm sure, results from the extensive attention I generate when it's particularly cold outside. I have one of those complexions that is, most of the time, a blessing -- except when I'm blushing hard or when it's really cold out. My face turns bright red -- scarlet, practically neon. And strangers, in the winter, feel completely at ease in remarking upon this. As much as I fit the Leo profile in some ways, being a public spectacle because I look like a freak is not my idea of being the center of attention.

The things I enjoy about winter are few:

1. It is occasionally picturesque, like now, hours after the season's first snowfall.

2. It affords me an opportunity to buy and wear sweaters, which is typically a good look for me.

3. The pets get extra-cuddly with us, and this year we have a young kitten who's also prone to share body heat with our dog and other cat. That is downright adorable.

And finally, of course, 4. Presents!

I have suggested, mostly jokingly, a move to Arizona or San Diego. Kim flat-out rejects these proposals. Instead, we daydream about wintering in Arizona and summering in Vermont, spending spring and fall in the Takoma Park neighborhood we love -- but as long as we keep not playing the lottery, that's not going to happen. So we suffer, alternately.

It's a long time until April, when I can trust that I won't freeze to death on any given day. I'm left with no choice but to try to stay optimistic. Some small comforts: Our dog loves this weather -- it makes her frisky and delightful. We have three young nieces who are a joy to visit during the Christmas season -- they're at just the right ages for the holiday.

Finally, spring is just around the corner, and what could be a more welcome development? The flowers blooming, the trees regaining their leafy green splendor, the sun warming us up after the too-long chill. And it means that the resplendent heat of summer is just ahead.

As it turns out, this year we're due for Christmas with my family, so I'll have to check my winter resentment with my luggage at the airport, and forget to pick it up at the baggage claim in Iowa. Perhaps it'll be unseasonably warm. Still, I wouldn't mind a little snow -- just a little -- for the holiday. That would be cool.

Kristina Campbell can be found under a pile of blankets for most of the next four months, but thanks to Wi-Fi, she's able to check e-mail while she's there. Reach her at kcampbell@metroweekly.com.


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