Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dear Chepe, Cold is One Way to Put It

"Why did they turn up the AC so high?!" Max asked, bewildered, as we de-boarded the plane and stepped onto the jetway, touched down in Oregon. My tropical-climate-loving children were in for a surprise. We weren't even outside yet.

The day before we left the island, I was talking to the doorman, Chepe, at Max's school.
"Oooh. I hear it's cold there," Chepe grinned as we talked about the distant land of New York.
I nodded, amused by this man's child-like spirit. Chepe has a perma-grin and shoes that are three sizes too big for him. I'm not sure if he naturally shuffles or just does it to keep his shoes on. If a child is ever misbehaving, he simply wraps him in a bear-hug for several minutes, gives a good chuckle and lets the wee one on his way.
"I was really cold once," his eyes turned to me, serious. "In a bank."
I smiled again.
"They had the AC up so high," Chepe pointed to the sky, then hugged himself and shivered, "I couldn't be in there!"
"Chepe," I turned to him, equally serious, "It's so cold where I'm going that water on the ground becomes ice!"
His eyes widened and I couldn't help myself.
"Chepe," I continued, "It's so cold where I'm going that when you breathe the air in, you can feel the cold in your lungs!"
He put his hand over his mouth, aghast.
"Chepe," you bet I kept right on, "It's so cold where I'm going that they cancel recess so the children won't freeze to death!"
He stood up, "Stop. That's too cold."

My first morning here, I awoke early (I was on a clock four hours ahead) and had to go to the bathroom. Like anybody else, I have my bathroom quirks and routines. There is one bathroom in my parents' house that I use. Just one. It was so cold in there I couldn't bring myself to take my pants off. This girl ain't nobody's fool. I thought I might find a fine layer of ice in the toilet bowl. Having abandoned my "usual spot", I frantically (the bladder waits for no wo-man) racked my brain for a solution. How do I empty my bladder without freezing to death, several hours before anyone is awake to notice? Solution: 82 jumping jacks, a carefully wrapped blanket and lightning moves. You think I'm exaggerating. Bless you.
The thing is, in my parents' successful attempt to live more frugally, they don't turn the heat on higher than 60 F in most of the house--it's a large house. And in some parts, it's shut off completely--like where my preferred bathroom resides. My dad ambles through the house in slippers made for Alaskan trekkers and a coat so puffy, it takes a moment to find his face in the mass of cotton. It looks like he's smuggling pillows. "I don't mind being cold," he smiles.
That said, I don't own a coat--just a couple thin sweaters. Before moving to my island paradise, I gave away a few of my coats and then during my visit back this October, sold my last one to pay for some things for our library project. Surely, I would not be visiting in the colder months of December and January. Ha. Here I am. Thank goodness for friends with extra winter coats. #meloveyoulongtimetika&steph At least I had the presence of mind not to sell my boots.

I'd forgotten a few lovely things about the cold. I noticed this on my parents' back deck yesterday.

Dear Chepe, Its so cold where I'm going, not even the spiders can catch a break.
Isn't that far more beautiful than a warm sunrise over banana trees? Well, no. But it is nifty.

I'd forgotten that baking heats up the house in a pleasant way, not a sweat-dripping-this-bread-better-be-worth-it kind of way. I'd forgotten the delightful faces my husband makes when I put my icy fingers on his warm stomach. I'd forgotten the intense crispy, clean in the air. I'd forgotten the soothing of a hot mug in cupped hands. I'd forgotten that you can exhale in the shower--because the water is warm and keeps you there long enough to feel a bit guilty. I'd forgotten the bundled snuggles of my kiddos clinging to me, shivering. I'd forgotten the sounds of the fireplace. I'd forgotten mittens, butternut squash soup, icicles, seeing your breath in the air, and hot tea all day long.
I'll have to tell Chepe about those things when I get back.

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