It’s cold in Memphis. Tonight and last night, the temperature has dropped below 32 at night. For Memphis, that’s pretty cold. It’s not unusual in the winter, but we sort of like it around the 45 degree mark here in the winter. It’s just cool enough to pull out sweaters and scarves, but you don’t have to fool with coats and gloves. Us Southern girls only like to wear boots for decoration not for practicality.
I lived for a brief period in Pennsylvania when I was about 24, but, other than that short time, the first time I moved to a really cold climate was in 2000. I moved from Seattle to St. Joseph, Michigan, a cute little Victorian town on Lake Michigan. I moved there in June. June was absolutely fabulous! The summer days had highs of 70-85 with the occasional day getting into the 90s, but it was rare. I would chuckle to myself when people would talk about how humid it was. Good heavens...go to Louisiana in July and tell me about humid.
I was naive about how cold it would be around Lake Michigan. I mean, I knew it was colder up north, and I’d get lots of snow, but I thought it would be fun. I pictured myself out snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and learning to ice skate. I could already envision my family being envious about my beautiful White Christmas. I got the first inkling that I might be romanticizing it a bit when I saw some winter pictures of the St. Joe lighthouse. Remember the shots in Dr. Zhivago of the winter residence when they arrived? Well, it looked just like that – COVERED in ice – the entire lighthouse and the walkway out to it. I just stared at it. OMG…I have moved to Siberia.
I got my first dose of reality early in the winter. I wear a lot of skirts to work – or I did when I got there. I walked up to the front door of our office, which was right across the street from the lake, and a cold wind blew, stopping me in my tracks. I had on a skirt, so I really wasn’t very covered, but I did have on a long coat and gloves. It was as if I was standing in a freezer with a fan blowing 50 mph. It literally took my breath away it was so cold. I never knew that anything could feel that cold. I could feel it in my bones. That experience was quickly followed up by a rather large snowfall. I lived in a condo so I didn’t have to worry about clearing my driveway. I started to walk to the garage, and I looked at my deck. Snow was up to my hips. How was I going to get across that? I didn’t have a snow shovel. Boy, this was going to be more difficult than I thought.
I took up running in February while I lived in Michigan. Looking back, that was sort of stupid timing, but I was ready to start running, and I needed to strike while the iron was hot. So, I bundled up and started a beginning running program. I had to buy these little cages to put on my shoes so that I wouldn’t slip on the ice. I would dress in gear that covered every inch of my body except my eyes. The liquid in my eyes would freeze into ice on my eyelashes. Brrrrrrr……
I did buy some snowshoes, but I only used them a couple of times. It was so cold, I would get miserable, and it wasn’t enjoyable being outside no matter how warm I dressed. If you’ve never been to Lake Michigan in the wintertime, and I don’t recommend you do, you may not know that ice banks form all along the lake. The lake has waves like an ocean, so as the waves roll in, they start to freeze, and the ice builds and builds and builds on the shore. It looks like icebergs, and in a really cold winter, they may go out so far that you can’t even see the water from the shore. You can walk out on them, although it’s dangerous to do so. But, it’s really cool.
I’d had enough one night when I went to a friends’ house and parked my car in my usual spot. When I started to leave her house, I got in the car, and tried to back out. My car would not move. The tires just spun and spun. I got out and looked. During the time I had been inside, ice had frozen completely under my car. I was sitting on a bed of ice. My friends came out. They tried to put boards under the tires and push the car. When the car lunged forward and almost hit one of them, I said that was enough. I called AAA, and they came and towed me out. I went home and told my then husband, “In the South, we park the car and when we’re done, we drive home. We don’t have to almost kill people and then get towed in order to back out of somebody’s driveway.” I’d had enough of the hassle of cold weather.
I do wish I’d have learned to cross country ski. I think I would have liked it. But, I guess I can always go for a visit and try it out. And, St. Joseph was a lovely town in summer and winter. One of my favorite memories is driving up to Cafe Tosi’s in the wintertime to pick up my morning mocha before work. The lights of the cafe twinkled in the snow and ice, and people were out and about in their pretty scarves, hats and boots. And, there was nothing so nice and inviting as walking inside a beautiful little cafe with warm coffee and hot chocolate after being outside in the sub-zero cold. It makes me all warm and cozy just to think about it.