On the morning of Dec. 25 in New England, Bing Crosby got his wish. About an inch of pure white snow blanketed the streets and sidewalks of my parents’ neighborhood in Massachusetts where I was staying, and it was, indeed, a white Christmas.
The next morning brought an entirely different set of winter weather conditions to the area. I awoke to what sounded like drunken reindeer rattling the walls of my bedroom, and I peered out of my electric-blanketed cave. The view from my window was pretty deflating for a girl who had eaten her weight’s worth in roast beast and pumpkin pie the night before and who badly needed to run it off. Overnight, temperatures had risen, fresh falling snow had transformed into sleet and rain, and a thick layer of slush had been slopped onto everything like mashed potatoes in a middle-school cafeteria.
Although throwing in the towel and hibernating for the next three to four months did cross my mind, some brave part of me (probably the as-yet-incompletely-digested roast beast) finally convinced my fingers to creep out from under the covers and flick off the electric blanket switch. Then, with something like a grumble and a whine, I pulled on my spandex and sneakers and headed toward the door.
My father spotted me on his way to the electric fireplace. “Oh, you really can’t run in that slush,” he said. “You’d need rubber boots.”
“Don’t be silly!” I laughed, hoping he wouldn’t catch the lack of confidence in my voice. “Nobody runs in rubber boots, except maybe a farmer chasing a hog.”
When I stepped outside, I saw that the slush crept up over the tops of my sneakers. Two inches of bare ankle-flesh protruded below the hems of my threadbare pants. But with my dad watching me from the front window and my words still echoing in the air, what choice did I have? There was no way I could turn back.
At the corner of the street, I saw a neighbor hunched over with a shovel. He stood up straight as I shuffled past, as if surprised that I’d choose to be outside if it wasn’t necessary. I ran on, feeling guilty that I wasn’t shoveling my parents’ walkway.
At that moment, a car rounded the corner and splashed a four-foot-tall freezing sheet of gray street liquid onto me. I was soaked from the torso down, but by the end of the next block, this became the least of my problems. The wall-rattling sleet that had pervaded the night had returned, and was drilling holes into my face, hands, ankles, and every inch of exposed skin.
Another car whizzed by, forcing me out of the road and onto an unshoveled sidewalk where I waded through ankle-deep sleet puddles and began to wonder if there really is such a thing as running boots. And if not, wouldn’t the world be grateful if I decided to invent a pair of nice, knee-high running boots and make millions of dollars and move someplace tropical and warm where there was never any sleet or slush and I’d never ever have to run in freezing gray liquid again?
But then again, what would be the fun of that?
Okay, fine, I’ll be honest. At times I dislike and even despise winter. Slush is awful; I’d rather be tortured and then stepped on by a rhinoceros than shovel it; and I do not like being chilled to the bone. When I complain about winter, which is often, people recommend that I simply pile on more layers of warm clothing. To these people, I say, Fiddle-dee-dee. Give me garments that will cover my fingers and nose and still allow me perfect dexterity and a breathing passageway, and maybe then we’ll talk. But until then, I will continue to have every inch of my skin covered in goosebumps for the duration of the season, and that’s that.
But do I ever want to leave the cold climate entirely? No.
There are too many things to like about winter. And as if I had any reason to doubt this, the next evening brought about 6 inches of fresh snow to the region. In the morning, I ventured out again for a run, and was greeted by a scene straight out of White Christmas. Snow covered everything, and even my dirty old car looked like a glacial moraine in a meadow. The trees, sharply contrasted against an ice-blue sky, were lit from above by the rising sun.
This is home, I thought, and for the remainder of my run, I put to rest my treacherous thoughts of running away.