What Chicago Taught Me About Winter

6 Jan

Twenty-four years ago, I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Chicago. Permanently. Although I didn’t know it at the time.

So when I got an automated telephone message a couple hours ago to say that school was closed for another day because of a dangerously low wind chill, I literally groaned – not so much for the brutal cold as for the stir craziness brewing between our home’s four walls, and because I’m a fan of familiar routine and ours was now two days deferred.

Then, I made a list. 

What Chicago Taught Me about Winter

  • Snow is heavy.
  • A winter coat in the Midwest bears no relation to a winter coat in the Bay Area. What Midwesterners mean by “winter coat” may be referred to back home as a ski jacket. Only longer.
  • Wet hair can break off in below-freezing temperatures, leaving a person with an intriguingly jagged haircut.
  • Snow boots, even when they look cute, are useless when they leak. But sometimes you can plug the hole with rubber cement. For a day. Or two.
  • Winter hats – when worn by a native Californian – must cover the ears.
  • When you see sunshine out your window in the morning, you cannot let it guide your choice about what to wear that day.
  • If someone asks, “Is it really sunny all the time in California?” the correct answer is, “Yes.” No one wants to hear about the six times you got caught in the rain or how it dropped to 35 degrees a few winters ago.
  • Snowflakes truly are as varied as the paper cut-outs we made in elementary school. They’re prettier, too.
  • Bathrooms are warm. Usually. And good for sleeping in.
  • It really can take twenty minutes to shovel out the car in the morning and if you share a car with your roommates, it’s rude to sleep in so late that you can’t help.
  • Wind chill is weird.
  • Snow days are a thing.
  • Weather is an actual topic of conversation. It’s not a brush-off topic reserved for obligatory phone calls with family members you haven’t seen in a long time.
  • A hot bath is magic.

How’s winter hitting you this year?


7 Responses to “What Chicago Taught Me About Winter”

  1. Andrew S Martin January 6, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    As a fellow former Northern Californian I laughed all the way through this list. You absolutely nailed the differences. I’d only add that snow that you drive to is clearly not the same snow you have to drive in.

    • RoiAnn January 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      So true! Thank you 🙂

  2. DeCaf January 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    As a Midwesterner who lived for a couple years in SF-bay and then returned home, I was amused. 🙂 I remember being utterly confused by how a thunderstorm made the news and how apartments often lacked grounded outlets. It seemed like an alien world to me.

    • RoiAnn January 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

      I’m shaking my head. I can only imagine how ridiculous we Californians must have looked to you. Thanks for sharing!

  3. goodfamiliesdo January 7, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    I grew up in Michigan and am currently back here but Chicago was home for 6 years and I hope to move back there soon! I somehow did not know you live there. An apartment with heat included is essential in Chicago, preferably big old radiator heaters!

    • RoiAnn January 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

      I didn’t know you had ties to Chicago – love it! If you do move back eventually, I hope you’ll give me a shout.

      • goodfamiliesdo January 8, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

        Will do! We will be making a trip in the spring and then I’d like to be moved back by the fall… Not that my parents know yet. They will be sad and my mom will be pissed but Chicago is home and maybe Wallace will be motivation enough to visit.

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