I recall with absolute clarity walking home in the dead of winter with my sister from swim-team practice in my mid teens, hatless, winter parka hanging open, cracking the icicles on our wet, frozen hair as we strolled along, in no particular hurry to get home and get warmed up. It was stupid. It was reckless. It did not make an ounce of sense. Nowadays, each time I see a kid get off the school bus wearing nothing but a hoodie on a cold winter day, I have to remind myself that I did exactly the same thing at their age.
And lived to tell the tale.
I also clearly recall the winter I finally gained a bit of common sense. I was attending university in my early twenties, and, living too close to bother taking the city bus, I always walked to class no matter how cold the weather. That winter, I finally noticed that even on the nicest days in the spring and fall, the senior citizens who walked with any regularity always bundled up. On that first ‘warm’ day of spring (that even a Canadian would consider ‘a chilly day’ if it were in the middle of summer) while teenagers left the house in t-shirts, I had noticed the seniors were still wearing hats, gloves, scarves and coats. Every morning before leaving for class, I took to looking out the window of my apartment, waiting until I saw an older person walking past, and then dressing accordingly. The number of colds I had been catching decreased immediately.
A few days ago, we had a particularly nice day if you compare it to the exceptionally long, cold, snowy winter we have endured in my neck of the woods. Everywhere you looked, there were hopeful signs of spring. While there are still a great many patches of snow on the ground, they have encouragingly receded: more and more yellow-brown grass is visible and, in some areas, the grass has actually taken on a slight green hue. The ice on the river in front of our house broke up a few weeks ago. All that is left is the occasional large chunk of ice floating by from somewhere colder up river.
On the nice day in question, you could tell people were anxious to get out and take in the fine weather: the neighbourhood was alive with people. Boys in t-shirts rode by our house on bicycles that hadn’t seen the sun since late last fall. A few teenage girls strolled past the house in jeans, sneakers and t-shirts, heads bent toward one another as they talked about the things only teenage girls could ever find endlessly fascinating. Young couples in t-shirts were out in droves walking their dogs. Our own dog found a great deal to joyfully bark at.
I should mention that it was just 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit): not exactly t-shirt weather.
At some point in the early afternoon, my husband went to the local grocery store to pick up a few items. He had just entered the store when a little girl – perhaps six years old – marched up to him with great purpose, put her hands on her hips and declared in confused amazement: “You’re wearing a coat!”
“Well, yes I am,” replied my husband, smiling down at her in a confusion of his own.
With an expression that clearly told him she thought this was ‘pretty weird behaviour’ under the circumstances, the little girl turned on her heel and ran to join her mother without another word.
As he drove back home, my husband – still wearing his ‘weird’ coat – noticed that no one under age thirty was wearing more than jeans and a t-shirt. He actually spotted one young woman in her yard, wearing a bikini. Now thoroughly caught up with the spring fever that had affected our entire community, as soon as he got back from the store, he asked me if I wanted to go for a walk.
I thought that was a fine idea, and ran upstairs to find a sensible, warm sweater. On my way out the door, I also grabbed my coat, just in case.
While we walked (my husband still wearing his ‘weird’ coat), it occurred to me that I’m the sensible senior now. And I wondered if any twenty-somethings out there noticed us in our practical attire and gained a bit of common sense of their own…
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com