The Winter of My Discontent


Ahhh…March 20. The first day of spring. Every year I think it falls on the 21st, so my enthusiasm shows up a day late. No more freezing (translation = below 70 degrees) nights, lower electric bills, shorts, sandals, sunshine. Heaven is on the horizon, and I know it won’t be long before I’m floating in a pool, enjoying 90-degree weather.

But on March 20 last year, I found myself cozied up to a parka, wearing a Dr. Zhivago hat, and turning the heat up one degree per hour.

“What’s the deal?” I lamented to Mom. “It’s March, for Pete’s sake. March. The month of leprechauns and Spring Break and flowers blooming and sundresses appearing on racks everywhere. Flip-flops are out on shelves, and my boots are hibernating until December. It’s time to move on, winter. Selfish, egocentric, obnoxious winter.”

"Don't you remember that we always have a cold front in March?" my mother asked.

“Umm, no. I don’t ever remember this happening."

"Don't you remember when you and Doc came over to the house, wearing shorts and flip-flops one March day, and you were freezing?"

“If I remembered every March 20, I wouldn’t be shocked when it repeatedly ruins my wardrobe plans. And how do you remember the weather every year? That was 365 days ago. I can’t remember the last time it rained, but you can remember weather from years gone by? What are you, a walking Old Farmer’s Almanac?” At 90 years old, her memory sometimes ran circles around mine.

And so, each year, spring pulls its cruel joke. Just when I’m ready to sit outside on my swing and drink apricot tea, the drink of the Warm-Weather Gods…bam! Temperatures plummet to a blustery 50 degrees at night. Judging by Facebook posts each year, I’m not the only victim of Selective Weather Memory; many of us are traumatized.

But this year, it’s gone too far. Icy days were a novel adventure during The Big Chill of January, but now we’re past Easter. Oh sure, Mother Nature has given us a few scattered warm days, to make us think her heart is thawing out. But repeatedly, she lowers her frozen gavel, proclaiming it winter again. We’re post-hockey season, and now into baseball season, including my son's baseball season. Hockey’s great for cold-lovers, but baseball is the sport of the sun worshippers. Watching my Cowboy play ball while I cheer from the stands, with the sun bleaching natural highlights into my hair, as I drink a cold soft drink and eat ballpark food – it’s paradise to me. But not this year. Nope. I’m in misery as I sit on those ice cold metal bleachers, wrapped in a blanket and wishing the game had been televised.

It’s almost mid-April, and I had to get out my winter coat last weekend. My winter coat. Not a windbreaker, not a sweater, not a poncho – a coat. Wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour brought this colder weather, and every potted plant within a five-mile radius was knocked down, pathetically left lying horizontally on the ground. I saw two squirrels and an armadillo holding paws with each other as they flew across my backyard, one of them screaming a high-pitched, “Auntie Em” in terror. Creatures everywhere are suffering.

On the first day of Winter-geddon, I wore a short sleeve blouse. It was a matter of principle. Winter had its chance and blew it, so to speak; I'm not going back to sweaters and leggings. Jack-Frost clothing is hanging on countless clearance racks in stores throughout Houston. Cute summer apparel is in full bloom. Yet humanity, at the mercy of Mother Nature, continues to don boots, jackets, and Sherpa wear.

But I'm not giving in. I'll shiver my way to June, wearing tank tops and holding a cup of decaf vanilla latte to avoid frostbite in my phalanges. There’s nothing worse than frozen phalanges; they must be warmed to room temperature.

Of course, I realize that this second-quarter-of-the-year ice age brings one benefit - I am no longer hot all the time; my internal summers have been cooled. Which is a good thing. But now I'm cold. And then I'm hot again, because heaters everywhere are being cranked up in April. Temperatures on the moon range from -298 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 224 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. That's was me last Tuesday; I am the moon. Every day. We've seen people walk in space, but modern science has yet to come up with a device that regulates a woman-of-a-certain-age's body temperature.

But I have the answer. Earth Suits. And not just for women, for the entire human race.

We could wear them all year. When summer finally rolls around, assuming it ever arrives again, I’ll still struggle with cold weather…indoors. Cowboy's speech therapist’s office is kept at a cozy 30 degrees year-round. Wearing my Earth Suit, I could adjust my dial to “Spring” for a 77-degree day inside my suit. After Cowboy's appointment, we'd make our way back to the car, the interior of which would be 120 degrees. But Cowboy and I would never notice; we’d simply adjust our personal thermostat dials according to our individual preferences.

Earth Suits would solve many marital problems. Sleeping in mine, I’d no longer have to steal covers then tuck them under me so Flash couldn’t steal them back. Don’t judge me – we’ve all done it. Five minutes later, when my flesh would feel like hot lava as my hormones shifted, I wouldn’t have to throw off those covers, tear off every stitch of clothing, and run to the freezer to stick my head inside. Instead, I’d merely hit the "Cold Flash" button on my suit. It would be climate control at its finest. All Thermostat Battles would cease.

We’d never sweat. Laundry would be remembered as an archaic form of torture. No more stinky socks, no rings around the armpits. Grumbling about the weather, be it hot and humid or horribly frigid, would cease. It wouldn't matter what the forecast would be. We'd have to think of something different to talk about during awkward silences.

An automated visor would be built into each Earth Suit helmet, as well as an electronic umbrella that could pop out of the top, making it the perfect headwear for sunny days as well as dreary ones.

Suits would come in an array of colors and styles to suit mood and events. Bridal Suits would have detachable trains, and veils would fasten onto the tops of helmets. Going fishing? All helmets would be impenetrable to hooks, and Nature Suits would have multiple built-in pockets for those who enjoy camping and hunting. Translucent Suits could be worn to nude beaches, and Tuxedo Suits would be available for proms and New Year's Eve events. The possibilities would be endless.

Recently, during this Calendar Freeze – as we’re stuck in a weather wormhole for eternity – I’ve heard several comments, and read quite a few more on Facebook, that exclaim, “Oh, I love this weather. Doesn’t this feel great?”

Are they nuts? I think to myself. The Easter Bunny showed up a few hours late at my house because his joints were too stiff for him to hop down that icy bunny trail. My freshly potted spring flowers are confused; they don’t know whether to bloom or lie dormant until next March, at which time we may or may not have a spring. Those mislead souls who are enjoying this Fifth Winter of the Year will need special adaptations to their Earth Suits and helmets. The Snow Globe snap-on face shield will give the impression of flurries, right before their eyes, and their customized suits will have an "Arctic Blast" button that simulates hypothermia.

Those who have left Houston to move to a God-forsaken cold area of the United States could use the "Rainforest" button to crank up their suits’ humidity to 2000 percent, giving them the feeling of being back home in the Bayou City.

While living in this limbo, I’m wondering about my future. Are we skipping spring? Going straight to summer? Will we miraculously wake to 90-degree bliss one morning? Or is fall right around the corner, followed by our Sixth Winter? Does this current weather mean we get to celebrate Christmas again this month? That would be a plus for me – I’ve had a sudden hankering to watch Miracle on 34th Street, even as I observe The Day After Tomorrow unfolding outside my living room picture window. Often, my mood has matched that scene outside. I remember back to the days of sunshine. Days that brought pollen, but at least I could get a tan as I drank Benadryl from the bottle.

But a fleck of hope began budding in my soul this morning; my heartbeat quickened when I saw sunbeams streaming through my window. Is my misery coming to an end? Will this winter of my discontent soon usher in spring, followed by a glorious summer? I wondered, hopefully.

But, alas, as I looked at the five-day forecast, my dreams were shattered. More clouds, severe storms, and nights in the 40s are on the way.

Hurry up, NASA. We need those Earth Suits ASAP. They could be the answer to world peace, since there’s a direct correlation between body temperature and mood changes. Until those suits are completed, I’m clinging to thoughts of spring as tightly as that lone, shivering mosquito is clinging to my storm door. He’s out for blood, and so am I. I’ll fight you to the end, Mother Nature. To the bitter, cold end. If you want to take me, you’ll have cut my new black sandals off my feet and pry my Beach Boys CD out of my frostbitten hands.