Yesterday was the first day this year that I said, “Yep, winter’s here for sure”. The wind was bitter cold, people were talking about the weather (what on earth do they talk about in San Diego, I wonder….surfing conditions?), collars were turned up, heads were firmly down, scarves were nose high and down coats were de riguer. On top of it all, I had a cold, a cough and was really not fit company for anyone. I was not what you would call a happy camper.
When people ask me (non-Canadians, of course) how I feel about the Canadian winters, I always talk about how I much prefer extreme cold to extreme heat and how it’s so refreshing that we have 4 distinct seasons – how it really allows one to exercise one’s fashion options. All of it true. But someone who listens carefully realizes that I never quite answer the question – that I talk around it, The truth is I have never truly embraced the Canadian winter.
I’ve been here going on a dozen years and every winter, I struggle through it. Friends who were born here say things to me like “There’s no such thing as too cold as long as you dress for it” or “you just have to find a winter sport you love”. Yeah, I don’t think so. No matter what you do, your nose is always cold and my feet are always cold. There is no such thing as a “cute down jacket”. It’s practically an oxymoron. Anything that doesn’t make you look like a relative of the Michelin Man is a win. In Canada in the winter, you just suck up your vanity and completely mummify yourself in down. Winter conditions make all drivers grumpy as all heck and this makes those of us waiting for public transit (which sucks anyway) unlikely targets. How so? Let me take you back about oh, 5 years ago. I was hurrying to the bus stop in the morning, trying to get to work on time, when a car drives past me and showers me from head to toe in slush (I kid you not), leaves me dripping and seething. I had to drag my angry, sorry self back home, change completely (there was no salvaging anything) and haul my resentful butt back to the bus station.
As for winter sports, well, I can’t say I’ve given it a fair shake but I did try it. I tried skiing once about 15 years or so ago and spent more time on my behind than on my legs. Do you know that those damn snow boots don’t let you bend you ankles and the freaking skis make it close to impossible to get up without assistance? Also, 4 year olds were making fun of me (this may have been my imagination) while zipping by me on the bunny hill. Similarly, I tried ice-skating – I enjoyed it but need to definitely learn how to ice-skate at a rink with bars around the edges before I put the general public in danger. Do you know that at both Nathan Phillips Square and at the Harbourfront Centre rinks do not have bars to help newbies? Yep, true story. Honestly, I’m clumsy and I have no hand-eye co-ordination. And that lethal combination, my friends, is the kiss of death for most sports. Summer and Winter.
So, here is a confession I have to make. When I was first considering moving to Canada, I didn’t consider the weather at all. Didn’t realize it was going to be super cold. No. It’s true. Honest. I confess it wasn’t my brightest moment. *pauses to let massive understatement sink in* Maybe Canada being called the “Great White North” would have given it away if I had known about it at that time? Geographically, I knew it was “somewhere up there next to Alaska” (what? I sucked at high-school geography and divorced it as soon as possible) but somehow, “up there on the map =cold” didn’t quite compute (I’m smarter that that, truly I am). North Americans always presume I must be used to the cold having grown up so close to the Himalayas. At which point I have to tell them I had never seen snow on the ground until I came to North America. (What is that I hear? Illusions shattering?) So really, this is the coldest weather I have ever been in … that said, if you think I’m a wuss regarding the cold, hello, have you met my mom??
I am told people can change (I hope, oh God-dy God, so desperately). I’m now mama to an active almost 4-year-old – this, I’ve discovered, is a great way to learn different things. Maybe we can learn together to ice-skate or ski. Maybe we can commiserate over sore bums and bruised knees together. Maybe we can nurse our egos back to health over hot cocoa. Maybe we can discover that while we may be klutzes but that tobogganing is totally our sport. We can build snow forts, snow men and as many variations of snow-things as you can dream up. That winter can be fun beyond the first day of pretty snow.
So up until that time, I will be snuggled on my couch next to the fireplace, with my knitting on my lap, a cup of tea by my side and a large pot of thukpa on the stove. Until that time, I remain,