Weekend Assignment #198: On Winter

Waiting until the last minute to do my homework — it’s just like high school. Or college. Or law school. Or elementary school, for that matter. The new Weekend Assignment is up at Outpost Mavarin. Here it is:

Weekend Assignment #198: What is your favorite thing about winter? Whether you love this time of year, hate it or merely endure it, you should be able to find something good to say about the season. What is it?

Before we had children, every winter the Mrs. and I used to drive up to Door County right after Christmas and stay until New Year’s Day or January 2. (For those of you not familiar with the Midwest, Door County, Wisconsin is the northern tip of the peninsula that divides Green Bay from Lake Michigan, and is a summer resort area for families from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and as far as the Twin Cities.) Most of the shops and many of the restaurants are open for that week — everything closes after January 2 until May — but it is never crowded, except for breakfast at Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay.

We went snowshoeing in the state park, antique shopping, watched old movies at night. One year, we were supposed to leave on New Year’s Day so I could be at the office on January 2, but on New Year’s Eve, it started to snow. When we woke up on New Year’s morning, it was still snowing. We tramped into the main building at Eagle Harbor Inn (where we always stayed) for breakfast, and heard that the road from Green Bay to Milwaukee had been closed by the state police, and would not reopen for several hours after the snow stopped, at the earliest. We were free! This was around 1998 or 1999 — I had no Blackberry or laptop, so I had to just leave voicemails for a few people, and then I was completely off the hook. There was no problem with our staying an extra night in our room, we drove into Egg Harbor to see the wonderful New Year’s Day parade (including the town’s little yellow fire engine) and eat dollar brats grilled up by members of one of the local service clubs as a fundraiser. I don’t remember what we did that evening, but I’m sure we enjoyed every minute of it. It was the best snow day I had had since the winter of 1978/79, when New York (where I grew up) had a massive blizzard and the snow plow broke down in the middle of our street, leaving us with an eight-foot high wall of snow, easily four to six feet thick, crossing the entire street, and all of the kids on the block stayed home and had the mother of all snowball battles, using the wall of snow as our barrier, our fort, our mountain, or our high ground for firing down at the others.

Now I watch my kids when they have a snow day; they’ve only had one or two since they started school (they’re young yet), but I remember my daughter jumping up and down the first time she learned that when there is enough snow, they cancel school and you get to play outside.

That’s what I love about winter: the possibility of snow days. No other season offers anything comparable, the possibility that the weather will be so bad that school is canceled, but so good that you can spend all day playing outside (with occasional breaks for hot cocoa and marshmallows).

Extra credit: What do you hate most about winter?

This is harder than the main assignment (which I suppose is why it’s extra credit). My first thought was: travel. I fly often enough for business, and flying in winter is really miserable because of the weather delays. I’m not going to use that as my answer, though, because these days flying is a miserable experience in all seasons, so there is no reason to single out winter.

The winner is: cabin fever. I get it as bad as the kids do. It’s hard to get up to run outside in the dark. It’s even harder when you know that out there in the dark, it is really, really cold. By spring, I am leaping at the chance to run outside in 40 degree weather, and the kids are begging to spend as much time as possible in the mud pit that is our backyard in April. By the end of February, we are all a few cards short of a deck. What I hate most about winter: cabin fever.

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