Here in the upper South we don’t have winter so much as three months of T. S. Eliot’s April, vaccilating between cold and cold comfort. Deep self-confident winter permits acclimation, the body and soul to put on layers of fat and wool against the cruelty without, but the occasional dip from jacket weather into parka cold promotes only whining. An inch of snow and traffic tangles like unused Christmas lights; six and we huddle in our dens as if beset by flaming hailstones. The forecast of a subfreezing afternoon comes with instructions on how to dress.
Survive thirty inches of snow or thirty degrees below zero and one has at least stories to tell one’s children, photographs for the album, video worthy of YouTube. Bitter cold and blizzard might stoke the fires of hardy stoicism or join neighbors in forced cheerfulness, but here even commiseration is half-hearted; the shared experience of not bothering to own a snow shovel is as comforting as unheated soup. Our winter’s banality is its most painful aspect: We don’t, after all, have all that much to complain about, and less to teach us not to. And so we shiver and wipe our soggy feet and wait for the spring we believe to be our birthright, when we can forget this whole sorry business ever happened.