The Spring in Our Step

I know when it’s spring because I feel it in my feet. I’ve got a decent pair of boots: silicone-impregnated leather; Thinsulate lining; all-weather, self-cleaning lugs; nylon insoles with half-steel shanks… You know, the works. (I do go camping from time to time.) If the German Sixth Army had had a few hundred thousand pairs of these, they could’ve won the Battle of Stalingrad in a walk.

But they’re heavy. Not so heavy it’s exhausting, but heavy enough that I always feel them there. And those first few days, after the cold and the slush has subsided — when I feel I could wear a pair of normal shoes without my ankles freezing off — it’s like the first day with a brand-new pair of sneakers. In fact, I sometimes go buy a new pair of sneakers about then just to double the effect.

Puddles stop being an inconvenience, and become an excuse for a good running leap. The weight seems gone — not just from my feet, but from my shoulders, from my head. Soon the heavy coat comes off too, and, for those first few weeks at least, the weight of age and even old regrets seem just a little less.

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Living in South Florida, I don’t have the usual cues for spring enjoyed by those in different climates. Ordinarily we Floridians can say, “Winter is the dry season, summer is the wet season.” But this year, we can’t even say that. We’ve had several storms this winter. In fact, a storm ruined the gazebo that shelters our dog houses. The fabric is completely detached on two sides and ripping apart on a third — but we can’t replace it! Gazebos aren’t “in season” at the home improvement stores. Even in the chain that started in South Florida, we have to wait for the “seasonable” spring months. Since I don’t shop all that often, I don’t consider this to be my sole indicator of spring. But this year I will be very happy to see this particular sign that spring is here — and my dogs will, too!

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I like being warm.

And where I live (Chicago), if you don’t know how to keep yourself warm once winter comes, I’m sorry, but in my book you’re kind of a moron.

I will admit that there were years in middle and high school (more than I care to admit) during which I refused to wear a hat because I did not want to mess up my hair. In hindsight, my hair looked like crap most of the time anyway (Perms! Why, God?!?), and that makes me feel even stupider about not wearing a hat, now that I think about. I was cold for no good reason, and my mother was right.

But anyway, as I said, I like being warm, and now that I’m an adult I own (and, yes, wear) the gear to keep me that way. And here’s the thing about gear: if you are of the female persuasion, and you live in a place with drastically different seasons, you’ve got a dynamite reason to buy lots of kick-ass, totally-functional-and-yet-you-look-hot-in-it gear. I’m talking leopard print, baby, and boots that make you feel like an Amazon woman with legs for miles. Not to mention all the cute stuff: hats that seem to have walked right out of the glamorous 1940s, coats with fuzzy fake fur, scarves that transform you into a French chick in a café, sleek leather gloves that make you feel like a lion tamer. I could go on and on.

And you can totally justify all this stuff financially, whether it’s to yourself or to someone with whom you perhaps share a checkbook. Honestly, you tell me, can I get away with taking a brown corduroy carry-all bag with black leather piping to the beach? That would be a no. Does my orange and hot pink clutch with tiny little flowers embroidered all over it look like it goes with black ice and a snow blower? Do I even have to answer that?

(And yes, I know that for a great many men, the previous paragraph was basically: blah blah blah, blibbity blah blah blee. Guys, a translation: girls get to buy a lot of shit because of the seasons. And they dig that. But if we’re being honest, this isn’t really so foreign to you, right? God knows what a freaking hard-on you all get from your super-duper, all-weather, he-man boots of the apocalypse. Have you ever even been somewhere where it gets to 40 below? Chances are you haven’t, but you’re still psyched that if you did, your feet would stay warm.)

So, anyway, I like to be warm, and I know how to keep myself that way and look good doing it, and one of the ways I do that is by wearing this really cute hat that I have. It’s powder blue with little mysterious animal ears (yeah, if you know me, you definitely know the one), and I love that hat. Let me clarify: I feel that hat. It turns a bland, depressing winter day into a total freakin’ anime adventure in which small children smile at you with big, round, confused eyes and you feel like boppin’ your head to a beat no one else can here. And it goes with everything. Black, grey, brown, burgundy, green, tan, and of course blue, it matches. It’s my go-to winter hat.

But then, usually sometime in March, there always comes a day when I’m hanging around outside with some friends, wearing my awesome, adorable hat, and I feel suddenly, inexplicably dorky.

What’s happened? What’s changed? I take off my hat, hold it in my hands, stare at it pensively. Is it me, hat? Do you feel it too? How did we lose that lovin’ feeling?

Then it comes to me: I feel like a dork, but it isn’t because I’m a grown woman with baby blue fuzzy ears. It’s just way too warm outside to be wearing a snow bunny hat. At least ten degrees too warm, in fact.

And right at that moment, without fail, one of my friends will glance at the hat, then say, “Is it really all that cold out? I thought it warmed up today.” They’ll look at each other, shrug their shoulders, then more than likely haze me for my inability to deal with a tiny bit of cold. (Oh, the irony.)

After that will come a confusing few weeks wherein we all wear too much or too little clothing a lot of the time. There’s the parka that gets too hot while you’re on the train and you take it off, but then there’s nowhere to put it so you have to hold it on your lap, and you’re all sweaty and awkward and you can’t read your book at all.

There’s the day you realize you really do need your gloves after all because it starts raining and then the rain turns to sleet and the sleet turns to snow, and by the time you get to work your hands are all stiff and red and you can’t type until you get a hot cup of coffee. And you hope it’ll warm up but in fact it’s even colder outside by quitting time. Man, you hate everyone on the street wearing gloves that day. Bastards.

Or, worst of all, the dreaded premature sandal unveiling. Did you even know your feet could be that cold and that unattractive at one and the same time?

But then the day finally comes when it’s really, truly warm outside, when the air makes you feel ticklish, the sun seems to be winking at you, daffodils nod their sleepy heads, nobody is wearing any kind of coat at all, and you remember what skin looks like. You really can wear that T-shirt you forgot about in the back of your drawer — you know, the one that makes you look all foxy — and girls have hot pink toes again. You see guys playing football in the park, taking off their shirts, and you notice their bods instead of making fun of them for being the kind of guys who take off their clothes in the park. Suddenly eye candy — something we have to have televised in to us during the winter around here (or seek out on the Internet) — is around just about every corner you come to.

And that’s when I know it’s spring!

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