Spring Cleaning

February 14, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Uncategorized

When did they invent the wind chill factor? When it’s zero outside, it’s cold. And when the Internet says that there is a wind chill factor of-50 it’s still cold. But we already knew that. We were staying away from the windows, (new, double paned, insulated, mullioned, 56 of em’… still cold), and promising ourselves to add a fancy storm door on the front come spring. The pile of firewood in the basement is diminishing. We fill the wood closet every couple of days and build big fires that do more for our spirits than for our feet. We light candles because they look warm, and turn on all of the lamps for the same reason. And somehow we feel smug up here ensconced in the deepest part of winter. The days are a little longer, but then the temperatures are a little lower. The snow has an icy coating and crunches when you walk on it. Vermonters take an odd pride in surviving winter. Yankee pot pie was probably invented here, and Guiness stew is a staple. Our hips are a little bit rounder, but our minds are sharp and clear. We think the summer people seem drowsy by comparison, the ones who live without seasons, and move from blue skies to sunny days. They get the heat, and the sluggishness of unrelenting sun seems to settle about their shoulders. Or at least this is what we tell ourselves in February. It is the juicy rationalization that gets us out to the chicken house with buckets of hot water for the warming trough, which seems unable to cope in this weather. We drink hot spicy cocoa and read Ayn Rand, and Grace Paley. We argue about politics with everyone we know, because debate generates heat. And we live in our kitchens because oil costs more than we earn in a month, and the dryer is in a little cubby just off the kitchen, where the oven always has good stuff inside, and it is the warmest room in the house. Now sometimes we do go barefoot in December because we have adapted. But unlike the city people who live in the new McMansions up here we bought a house that was built in 1838. It probably seemed pretty warm back then. It has developed a few cracks since. So by February we wear slippers. We go outside with vests and uncovered necks down to about 10 or 15. Zero gets our attention, and longjohns were invented for old houses.

Cleaning out and throwing away is a February activity. The seed catalogs have started coming and we remember our mothers talking about spring cleaning. It makes sense since we have salt in between all the floorboards, and snow pants and gloves atop every radiator. There are wood shavings,( from carrying the wood up four times a week), strewn everywhere always. Actually things are a mess. Come to think of it, so am I. I come home to Vermont and crawl into flannel everything. Wet hair sort of hurts in the morning when you can see your breath, so my hair lacks the Aveda touch most days. I may just have to face that amid all this stiff upper lip smug northern exterior we are letting things go as my grandmother always warned we might. She believed we were always one stray pair of shows away from the abyss. And she just may have been right…

Our CDs are in piles next to more piles of empty cases. The Christmas music sits next to Ella Fitzgerald who got dumped in favor of some New Orleans jazz when we remembered it was Mardi Gras someplace where it was warm. The drawers are filled with half empty tubes of lip balm, single gloves, broken pens, and change. There are no proper tablets, but scraps of envelopes with phone numbers and messages tacked to the bulletin board in the kitchen. The basketball schedule is torn, and the plumbing bill is late. Spring cleaning must have been invented for the poor winter saps whose minds and lives got stuck like the windows on the frozen cars. I think it’s time to throw some stuff away…..

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