“I swear everyone forgets what it’s like,” I said to my sister on the phone last week. “I love living in New England about two-thirds of the year.” And I do.
But then we get to this part, and I realize: we always forget how it feels to walk through this stretch, these gray, frozen, mind-numbingly cold days of the second half (or so) of winter.
I don’t mind a chill in the air in late fall, when burnished leaves begin to turn brown and the nights grow crisp and starry. I like pulling out my sweaters and boots, brewing an extra cup of tea in the evening, baking a loaf of pumpkin bread and buying fresh cranberries at the grocery store. I love Thanksgiving, and I adore December, with its atmosphere of twinkly magic and the manifold joys of Christmas.
We had a foot of snow in December this year, which felt a bit ominous. But at the beginning of winter, no one really minds. We pulled out the snow shovels, dug out our cars and scraped off our windshields, and then we flew to Texas to spend the holidays with our loved ones. We knew the winter would really start after we came back. It started with a blizzard, and has lingered with a vengeance.
I forget, every year, what it’s like to feel stuck in this stage of winter, when I’m sick to death of winter clothes, dry skin, and biting, punishing winds. My vision narrows until all I can think about is getting home after work and curling up on the couch with tea and a good story. Dust collects in the corners of my house; why should I clean those hard-to-reach spots if it’s too dark to tell the difference? Running out of milk or bread is enough to make me change the plan for dinner completely – anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store after dark. The errands pile up until the weekend, when I can at least run them in the daylight. Everything feels gray and white and worn out, and it seems as if spring will never come.
I know I’ll look back on these words in May or July or September and I won’t quite remember how it feels. I’ll remember that it was cold, and that I wore my red down coat, black snow boots and fleece-lined tights for days on end. I’ll remember brewing endless cups of tea and eating bowl after bowl of soup. I’ll remember spending many evenings holed up at home, with a book and a blanket for company.
But I won’t quite remember this, the flat heaviness that has settled into my soul. It will lift and lighten when spring comes, and by summer it will be entirely gone.
This is both a relief and a blessing. If I remembered this feeling clearly all year round, I don’t know if I could face another Northeastern winter. I wonder sometimes when I will reach the end of my endurance, when the thought of another long stretch of cold, dark, snowy days will be enough to make me pull up stakes and move back south. I have a feeling I’ll get there eventually, no matter how much I love the mild New England summers and the glorious autumns.
For now, my seasonal amnesia lets me savor the summer and fall, revel in the spring when it finally arrives, and prepare for another winter without (entirely) giving up. But I’d still welcome spring any day now.