You Can't Spell Winter Without 'Winner' & 'Tea'Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
I used to enjoy the cold weather. I don't mean "Winter is so beautiful after a snowfall" or anything namby-pamby like that. I mean, I used to love the cold. The biting chill, the howling winds, the icy blasts that froze my cheeks and made my boogers freeze.
I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, or if I just don't have the youthful vigor I used to, but I don't enjoy Indiana's arctic blasts the way I did 20 years ago.
When I was in college, I was notorious for loving the cold weather. According to a classmate, during one class when the winter was hammering Ball State's campus pretty hard and many students were skipping their classes to hibernate in their rooms, the other students were discussing how much they all hated the weather, and the professor asked, "does anyone even like winter?"
Several classmates all said, "Erik." At that moment, I burst into the classroom like a mountain man staggering into a warm tavern, coat wide open, no hat, cheeks chapped and red, and a huge grin splitting my face. That reputation has followed me around for years.
When the fall comes, most people respond by donning jeans and sweatshirts. Back then, I would put on a long sleeve shirt and boots and socks, but still keep the shorts. When the winter came, others crammed themselves into down-filled parkas, and I switched to jeans and a coat. Around January, when the cold was unbearable, I would wear a sweatshirt under my coat, and wonder aloud if I should put on a hat.
Nowadays, while I still love the chill of the fall, by the middle of December, I'm wearing sweatshirts and coats, and looking desperately for a hat.
I'm still a little slow to change when I'm inside though. I usually wear shorts and t-shirts to bed, and I don't switch to sweatpants until after three weeks of wondering why I'm so cold before I finally fall asleep. I don't make the connection that my toes wouldn't feel like icicles if I would just wear socks, until my wife reminds me that there's six inches of snow outside.
Winter is also the time I start drinking tea on a regular basis. My wife and I have been in sync on tea for years. We have a season for it, and like the geese who just take off to fly south one day, we immediately know when it's time to drink tea.
Sometime in October, one of us will ask, "do you want some tea?" and the other will always say yes. We start drinking tea at the same time of year, and we also stop at the same time in the Spring. It's like someone flips a switch when we're ready for it, and again when we're done.
Of course, when "we" are in the mood for tea, that "we" turns into a "me," and I'm the one who ends up making it. There's a specific ritual that goes with making tea in our house, and I have to make sure the ritual is followed correctly. I boil the water in a small pot, rather than a kettle, I pour the boiling water onto the tea sieve (or if we're out of loose leaf tea— God forbid! — tea bags), and let it steep for five minutes. My wife never likes her tea steeped for that long, and I usually comply. But if we've been arguing, I'll let it steep for the full five minutes just so I can get a little victory.
Tea is a nice little pick-me-up on a cold winter evening, and a great to end the day. But I can't treat it like a crutch.
I've decided I'm not hiding from the winter any longer. I'm going back to the days of my youth, where I not only embraced the cold, I grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and made it lick a flagpole. I am not going to cower in fear under the covers, waiting for Spring to come. I'm going back to coats instead of parkas, ear warmers instead of hats, and gloves instead of mittens.
I will be, as Dylan Thomas said, a wild man who caught and sang the sun in flight. I won't go gentle into that cold night. I will rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Because with a nice hot cup of English Breakfast and honey, I can deal with anything.
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