Monday, January 3, 2011

Disliking Winter – Then and Now

Actually I think when I was much younger I did like winter. I lived in a warmer town then and I had a warmer coat. The polyester fluff thing pictured here kept me warm enough to walk from where Mother dropped me off for school and from the parking lot at church, and that was about the only walking I did in elementary school (for 4th grade through 6th I did have to walk to school, it was a short walk but in drive-your-car Texas it freaked out other parents, almost every day one would slow down their sedan or pickup truck to ask if I wanted a ride).

Cooler weather meant different clothes and less pressure to “Go do something outside” – during one developmental (or not so developmental, LOL) phase Mother literally gave me money to go out into the fresh air and sun, and I still took my book with me. Once I learned to read, making mud pies and climbing trees (I could go up maybe 2-3 feet in the tree closest to our carport) lost the little appeal they had ever had.

Cooler weather meant more baking – three October birthdays, each person getting their own cake or in my dad’s case, pie (we usually had a dessert choice of my leftover 10/19 cake or his 10/25 pie), and then Thanksgiving and Christmas. We saw relatives during these holidays, sometimes the absolute favorites – Uncle Harvey from New York and the wonderful Dallas cousins.

And while my mother was alive, Christmas gifts were awesome. It wasn’t that she spent a lot, she got most things on sale, but she really researched what each child wanted and we even got holiday gifts AFTER Christmas – some that she saved for day 1 or day 2 after so we wouldn’t get so whiny, and some that she had temporarily lost in the clutter that was her closet (piles and piles of blue-gray Foley’s shopping bags, a year or more worth of sale items saved for the right occasion). Winter weather (Tomball style) meant GIFTS!

OK, to get back to what I didn’t like: DRY SKIN. My mother’s skin was even more sensitive and dry than mine, and it helped to feel that solidarity with her – since her passing, I feel more freakish. She used to make us mother & daughter appointments with a Houston dermatologist who every fall would give us prescriptions for a wonderful creamy-but-not-greasy lotion that had a hefty dose of steroids in it. That stuff would heal red, cracked skin before your very eyes! In the 1980s I used to beg Dallas doctors for this magic goop but they said it was no longer prescribed…topical steroids weaken the skin layers, blah blah blah…like anybody whose fingers and wrists and other sections of skin itch and hurt cares about long term.

I also disliked scratchy winter clothes – I didn’t love tights. I like the look of them (this was the Twiggy/mod era, a whiff of which actually penetrated to Tomball TX) but not how they felt on my legs. My mother was mostly sympathetic – I remember her sewing a soft lining strip behind the scratchy lace collar of a Christmas recital costume – but on occasion she did remind me that as a girl SHE had to wear WOOL stockings…and had to put them on early in the fall, and wear them till late in the spring. Then and now I shudder with horror at that.

In my 20s I bought wool sweaters but finally had to acknowledge I rarely wore them – wool just does not feel good on me – and have not bought wool anything since, not even cashmere. My skin is highly sensitive, I guess. In a different climate I would have had to bite the wool bullet, but in Texas I can get by with layers of cotton and dramatic shivering.

Yes, shivering… As a young child I don’t think I minded the cold so much – I hated the static electricity from my brushed-nylon nightgowns and pajamas but our house was warm, if in a spotty way. We had wall heaters in the bedrooms and bathrooms – of course those scared me but they were warm as hell. Yep, almost a noisy-fiery-hot-hell motif with those, a bit creepy for a sensitive child. (Shoot, I am scared in 2011 of my current home’s furnace…I dislike cold but heat scares me, that is a pretty good summary of my psychological problems).

My first major weight loss came in my preteen years and although I had fluctuations after that, I always thought the low body fat around my neck and shoulders was what made me miserable in cold wind and cold air conditioning (Texas is notorious for the latter, if not the former). But in the last two years my neck and chins have filled in substantially and I still shiver.

Maybe it’s a family thing – my oldest brother, probably the least over-sensitive of the three genetic Scholls (I’m not saying he was not sensitive, just that he was not OVER-sensitive) – used to carry a jacket around in many kinds of weather, especially in restaurants (the air conditioning thing again) and take it on and off his shoulders repeatedly.

Our ancestors came from cold Germany – I doubt I would survive even an early fall in that country, but I am not genetically predisposed to handle hot summer either. I can’t achieve self acceptance until I remember, as a start, that I come from pale white, potato & cheese loving German stock and my parents were (third) cousins. Several things, many things, going on genetically.

Although I am sure the Nazis would discard me as a substandard physical type within 5 seconds. Thank goodness my great-grandparents came to Texas in the 19th century. (My husband likes to call me a Nazi, but that is not timeline-accurate AT ALL.)

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