Debby Waldman's Blog

There’s no Such Thing as Cold: Only Inappropriate Clothing

There’s no Such Thing as Cold: Only Inappropriate Clothing
January 15, 2005

Call me nutty, but I do not think January is a sensible month in which to hold a wiener roast. Apparently, though, that’s how things are done up here in Edmonton, or at least that’s what I was led to believe on my first visit many years ago.
It was a mere week and a half after Christmas, and my future mother-in-law decided that the best way to introduce her son’s new girlfriend to local customs would be to have a cookout at a local park.
On the positive side, we didn’t have to compete for a picnic spot. But if I’d been thinking correctly, I would have seen the plan for what it was: a torture-tinged scheme to break up our relationship and send me screaming back home to New York state where, to be honest, our temperatures aren’t a whole lot warmer, but nobody would dream of dining outside between October and May.
But I was dense, the way young people in love generally are. And I was hungry, and the fire was warm and the hot dogs were filling so I was able to block the incident out of my mind until more than 10 years later, when I was the happily married mother of two preschoolers whose grandmother decided that the best way to celebrate New Year’s Eve was with – you guessed it – another wiener roast.
“But it’s going to be freezing!” I protested, marriage having made me bold.
“There’s no such thing as cold weather,” my mother-in-law responded cheerfully. “There’s only inappropriate clothing!”
I put on my happiest face – the only solution, because my husband refused to support my efforts to have his mother declared temporarily insane. To this day I’m not sure whether it’s because he didn’t want to get into a battle he couldn’t win (really, how can you argue with the logic of inappropriate clothing?) or because, coming as he does from hardy Alberta stock, he didn’t want to look like a weenie.
What I didn’t realize was that I had two secret weapons. Our children, Elizabeth and Noah, may also be descended from hardy Alberta stock, but they have plenty of my cold-sensitive (or perhaps it should be “cold sensible”) DNA, as the extended family was to discover.
Their howls of indignation began before we left our house, when they learned the nature of the evening’s activities. “But it’s WINTER!” they cried.
“It sure is!” I said, opting, at least while I was indoors and warm, to put on a game face. Perhaps I could persuade them by example. “It will be fun! There will be a fire! And we can go snow shoeing! And if it gets cold, we’ll come home!”
“But it IS cold,” they cried.
“There’s no such thing as cold!” I said with a big – or maybe it was demonic — smile. “There’s only inappropriate clothing!”
Owing to their under-developed vocabularies, they had no idea what inappropriate meant. But by then I was covering their smooth pink faces with yards of fleece so they couldn’t get their mouths open to ask even if they’d wanted to.
It was pitch dark when we reached the park at nearly 6 p.m., a starry, cloudless, frigid night that neither a bonfire nor hours of snow shoeing could hope to warm. The kids began to protest as soon as they exited the car. The fleece had a slight muffling effect. If you were far enough away, you could pretend it was just a strange wind you were hearing, not the cries of freezing miserable children who should have been home playing with their holiday presents.
We lasted 20 minutes before Grandma and the rest of the family happily bade us farewell. Dave opted to remain outdoors with the rest of his crazed clan. By the time he clomped into the living room hours later, a human Popsicle, the kids were sound asleep by the fire and I had regained enough feeling in my extremities to think about boiling up some hot dogs on the stove.
The heat blasting through the furnace and the blue-tinged glow of the gas fireplace had gotten me thinking about my preferred appropriate clothing. From now on, I decided, I’d eat my winter wieners inside, dining at the kitchen table while wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

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