In case there was any doubt about just how cold it is today, I open my morning newspaper. I am not disappointed. “Official Twin Cities temperatures are kept at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where the record for this date of 30 below from 1887 appears safe by a couple of degrees…At least a couple of record lows were set in the state. Redwood Falls lowered its record from minus-27 in 1951 to minus-29. Mankato set a new mark of 28 below, roaring past a not-so-bad minus-20.”
This news and other jaw-dropping tales of bitter temps are splashed all over the country. My sister from Denver calls me up and asks, “How can you bear living in that cold weather?” I tell her I make it through these days with the newspaper, books, Sudoku, a space heater, binge-watching TV shows, and lots of white wine. In fact, sometimes this cold is welcome; I don’t have anywhere I need to be these days, and bitter cold gives me permission to not bother taking a shower. After all, whose gonna see me? Certainly not my fellow online Mahjong players.
It’s odd to think about. I grew up with this climate, having been raised in Wisconsin. Were people just made differently then? The newspaper’s editorial page asks us, “Remember when we were tougher?” Indeed, I do. I remember walking to school every day in all temperatures and precipitation, peeking around snowbanks that towered over our heads. And, yes, being raised in Wisconsin, I do remember the Packers playing in subzero temps in Lambeau Field – my parents were there in the stadium, covered from head to toe in big heavy jackets, ski pants, boots and blankets. No “Thinsulate” for them!
Nowadays, when my husband and I go camping in the summer, (never in the winter), a chilly wind and light rain are enough to let us look at each other and declare, “A hotel would be nice right about now,” and that’s where we head.
I get it. We are in fact not as tough as we used to be. (The exception: those insane John Beargrease mushers. Really?)
But nothing compares to the way our species used to be back in the day.
I think the real person to ask “How did you bear living in that cold weather?” during these un-Godly cold days is the Pioneer woman (and her husband), living on the prairie in 1887. No Netflix and crossword puzzles for her; indeed, there were the animals to feed, the fire to stoke, children to keep from freezing to death. All day long. All night long. How did she keep from going stark raving mad? What kept her from packing up her bags and the kids and moving back in with Mom and Dad back East?
I do not understand this woman. I am in awe of this woman, and I’d certainly like to thank her and her family for sticking around. The alternative must have been unspeakably worse.
So, being that I have no animals to feed, with the exception of my miniature poodle and my one-eyed cat, no fires to stoke, and my children are up and gone, there is no hardship for me. I do feel a little guilty when I think of my ancestors on the prairie, making a way for me to live in ease. But what can I do to assuage that guilt, other than thanking them profusely as I shovel a little patch on the deck for the dog to do his business, before I hurry back inside?
I can’t even begin to imagine how you did it.