Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tis' the season

I am originally from Seattle, so imagine my surprise when we moved back east to Boston after college and discovered that the four seasons are not just in name only. That in other parts of the country there is actually a difference in the weather and temperature from spring to summer to fall to winter. In Seattle the spring is typically mid 50s and drizzling. Then there is an ever-so-slight up tick in the temperature for summer, but still drizzling. Followed by a slight down tick for fall (still drizzling) and a slightly less pronounced down tick in the winter months. Also with the drizzle.

When we moved to Boston it was July and hot. Not ridiculously hot, but certainly hotter than I was used to. I thought it was unbearably humid. It turned out I didn't know squat about humidity. In Boston you schlepped around thinking about a tall glass of iced tea and when you could get to the beach. And then one day fall came and it was glorious! The leaves changed, the temperatures became brisk and suddenly I felt like raking something or going apple picking, or doing one of the many fall activities I had only read about in books or seen on television growing up.

But alas, fall came and went too quickly and then it was winter. Only not the *put on your fleece* winter we had in Seattle. It seemed every week I was out buying yet another layer of insulation, convinced it was as cold as it could get. And then it would get colder. It was the first time I had heard a weather forecaster refer to the temperatures as *bitterly cold*. Wow, I thought, that can't be good, as my hair and eyelashes froze.

And then came the snow. The first snow of my first winter in Boston I was at work. As the giant flakes fell I started looking around nervously at my co-workers. Finally after it had reached three inches of accumulation in the parking lot I asked someone, *um, shouldn't we be going home since it is snowing so much*? She looked at me with disbelief, then outright scorn. Next she gave me a lecture about my mamby-pamby snow upbringing in Seattle. And then she gave me a nickname that stuck for the rest of the winter - snow baby.

All winter long it was bitterly cold and would snow. What I didn't realize was that winter in Boston lasts from around November through May. It snowed a lot that April and I cried but kept telling myself that in another month it would be May and I would be warm and could take off my coat. And then May came and it was still cold, just not bitterly. But eventually spring came the flowers and bloomed and life was good again. And so it went until we packed up and moved south to Washington, DC fourteen years ago.

Down here it is still cold in the winter, but a smaller percentage of the days are considered *bitterly*. There is snow, sometimes a lot, but not to the point where there are piles along the roadways and in parking lots that are taller than you and are a disgusting grayish black color and don't melt until June. Oh no, I quickly learned that DC is all about heat. And humidity. Especially humidity. I experienced another weather first when I saw a cactus as a symbol on the weather report. Unfortunately this cactus did not represent dry heat, like in Arizona. Instead it only represented the scorching hot aspect, but this was coupled with humidity that made you feel like you were encased in a heavy, wet wool blanket. And sometimes when the heat mixes with the humidity it can result in *air quality warnings* where children, elderly and people with respiratory problems should stay inside their air-conditioned homes where they can breathe the air.

Like the over six months of winter up in Boston, DC has over six months of summer. That is why we love fall. We talk about fall starting in July. We dream about fall, revere fall. And when it finally comes we practically weep with joy. And it lasts exactly two weeks.

So why do I live here? I make it sound so miserable, and it is. But the truth is I am a weather junkie. I have come to love extreme weather. If it is going to be hot I want it to be sweltering, like the surface of the sun. I want to be able to complain that if it doesn't cool off by tomorrow I simply can't go on living, using my best Scarlet O'Hara voice and clutching a mint julep. In the winter I want to have the cold take my breath away when I step outside and exclaim that I am going to pour my hot chocolate over my head in order to warm up completely. And I want rain - real rain, not the drip drip drip drip of a leaky faucet for six months straight. In DC the rain comes down in torrents, falling in heavy sheets. If you go outside with your mouth open you may drown.And it is done after a day. Sometimes after an hour.

My husband is like minded. He grew up in Alaska and gets nostalgic during the winter. This past winter he made my daughter walk to school (with him) even when the temperature was in the teens not including the wind chill. While other parents were driving their warm and toasty children to school my husband was regaling my ice cube of a daughter with stories of his childhood waiting in a snowbank for the bus. In the dark (because it's Alaska and the sun only comes out for about ten minutes in the winter months). And while you are standing there in your snow bank in the pitch black you also needed to be on the lookout for moose. So really, our kids have a cushy life.

So when people ask me how I can live here in this swamp where it is so miserably hot or so miserably cold or flooding or on high alert for tornadoes or hurricanes I just nod my weather-impaired frizzy haired head and smile with my face glistening with sweat (and not in a sexy, attractive way). Because I wouldn't want it any other way.


  1. Try growing up in San Diego, then later moving to Denver. Any time you mention, "Geesh-- it seems kinda cold," as you chip layers of sheet ice of your windshield in 5 below temperatures so you can drive to work, you are immediately met with a compassionate response from your neighbor of "Duh--you are from California! What do you expect! 60 degrees is cold to you!"

    When I was in junior high, we had the good fortune of living in Alabama, where the only thing to take your mind off the halllucnination-inducing humidity is the gigantic cockroaches that land on your head while you sleep.

    I think Hawaii is the place for me. I don't mind a volcano eruption every once in a while, and I look great in a hula skirt (the husband will say otherwise. Ignore him.).


  2. oh my, I laughed the whole way through this post! I was born in Milwaukee (where icicles grow from your nosehairs) and have lived in DC (where I went nocturnal in the summers) & AK (where I thankfully only lived for one summer) before settling in Seattle. I don't own a "warm" coat - only fleece and a rain jacket! I was recently back in WI in Nov and thought I might die as I clutched my sweater, fleece and raincoat around me in the (snow-less) wind (breeze) wondering how people could survive this kind of atmospheric severity. Everyone else just zipped or buttoned their down coats and went on with it, waiting for it to get "bad" in a month or two. But boy, does that 2-week seattle summer make it all worth it!