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The Dread Of Winter

As the days get shorter, New Englanders are haunted by memories of a brutal winter past. In this Feb. 2015 photo, a plow rolls down the street as people trudge forward on foot down Joy Street on Beacon Hill in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
As the days get shorter, New Englanders are haunted by memories of a brutal winter past. In this Feb. 2015 photo, a plow rolls down the street as people trudge forward on foot down Joy Street on Beacon Hill in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 5 years old.

I know I’m not the only one cringing as the days get shorter. A friend recently mentioned how melancholy she feels seeing ragweed blooming on the side of the road, because for her ragweed signals the end of summer.

Yes, I know, it happens every year. And some folks actually feel relieved when the heat and light no longer linger. Others face it stoically and even exult. Someone told me about a couple who retired in Maine last autumn after living forever in the Deep South. They embraced the big winter, bought snowshoes and cross-country skis, and when the snow got so deep that they couldn’t open the door, they climbed out the window and hiked to get groceries.

I admire their approach. All the same, I could die happy without ever landing on my butt in another snow bank. Since it’s already darker now when I get up in the early a.m., that prospect seems unlikely. And even though these days I can’t remember half the stuff I want to remember, I can’t seem to forget about the temperatures last February.

The calendar is whizzing like cards shuffled by a card shark, and I’m not prepared. Physically. Psychologically. Financially.

I ask you: How could we be moving toward winter already? How could it be that although March ended only five months ago, December will be here again in four? The calendar is whizzing like cards shuffled by a card shark, and I’m not prepared. Physically. Psychologically. Financially. You name it.

My messed up shoveling shoulder didn’t begin to come right until June. When today I made a few snow-tossing motions, it popped like corn. As part of last winter’s repair, a mason was supposed to re-grout our front walk which crumbled from all the little melty-crystals-things we scattered over it. You know, the ones that look benign, but chomp cement? When he visited in June, his list of other people’s crumbled walkways was already so long he wasn’t sure he’d make it to us this season, and he’s been radio silent since. Then there’s the ivy that usually grows like kudzu over the back trellis: stunted and pathetic, possibly still in shock.

Like so many other people’s, my earnings took a hit when everyone was housebound. And did I mention the $700 that went for body work on the car after I tangled with a rock-hard, half-cleared parking space? I know I am lucky not to have been stuck with the subway; though a good friend’s solution: to spend an extra 30 minutes riding a train south and away from the city each morning in order to have a place when the train turned to go north, still lingers in my thoughts.

What to do? Like little Riley in "Inside/Out," I have rash feelings buzzing about in my brain: “Move to Texas,” one shouts, “it’s warm there.”

And even though these days I can’t remember half the stuff I want to remember, I can’t seem to forget about the temperatures last February.

“Buy hobnailed boots,” instructs another.

“And sew yourself into wool longjohns like people used to do.”

“The days are getting longer now in Australia.”

“Hide under the bed for six months.”

They do go on ...

Fortunately, occasionally, a calmer voice chimes in, “Take it easy but take it,” it purrs, quoting an old Woody Guthrie line I love. And I suppose that’s as good as it’s going to get for a while.

Janna Malamud Smith Cognoscenti contributor
Janna Malamud Smith is a psychotherapist and writer.

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