Nov 22, 2007


The first light snow of winter is falling here in Oslo as I write, two days after thanksgiving, one month before Christmas eve. At this moment in Des Moines the temperature is about the same as here, hovering around freezing during the day, in the low teens at night.

Winters in Des Moines were not an affair for amateurs, at least not the cold part. The mid west winters were not the deep snowy kind. In fact there was never very much snow in the early fifties ... after all these were drought years. But they were cold.

Looking back nearly two generations into my past, I remember two winters every year. One of them was long and chill, lasting from the end of fall until after Christmas - trees bare and dead looking , the grass dull and brown. This long winter was never very cold, the temperatures hovered just above and below the freezing point. And there was never any snow. Some days it might get foggy or drizzle a bit, but never when it was cold enough to snow.

The second winter, more or less January and February, was very cold with temperatures from zero and down to 20o below. If there was any snow (and there usually was a little) it stayed on the ground. If there was any wind (and there often was) the snow drifted leaving the ground bare and brown with snowy borders.

If we were lucky, there would be a few weeks when we could go down to the Waveland Golf Course with our sleds and toboggans and skates and have fun in the snow, get very very cold, and then come home to thaw out, drink hot chocolate and eat cookies. There would be a few days we could build igloos and snow forts and have snowball wars

But mostly the winter meant walking to and from school bundled up in parkas and scarfs and mittens and hats and ear muffs with freezing fingers, toes, noses and ears. From the fourth grade it was considered sissy for boys to wear any protection on their heads, or to button up their jackets or coats. Winters were cold, and you were expected to brave it out. And we braved it ... and got our ears frostbitten and had chest colds for months at a time.

[More to come]

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