Yesterday, Chicago had the 283rd day without measurable snow, which is defined at 0.1 inch. We are to reach 50 today and tomorrow...50! In December. The exclamations for this winter are numerous. We thought last winter was an anomaly, coming as it did on the heels of the 3rd worst blizzard in recorded history. Yesterday, we had 100% of the available sunshine get to us. In December, which is historically, the snowiest month, that's quite an achievement. It usually happens in January, those crystal clear days and equally clear and frigidly cold nights, when you can see all the way to Andromeda it seems. There is rain in the forecast and we need, desperately, the ground moisture, but it's not snow although nighttime temperatures are slated to fall below 40, but not far enough that the rain turns to anything, not even sleet.
It wasn't always this way.
Our first winter in the house. We moved in in December, the very first weekend. That winter was a snowy one, giving us a taste of the shoveling to come. That snowsuit was mine. I don't remember if the hat was mine or one someone bought.
I have vague memories of that first winter in the house. We had storm windows that we put on but which were eventually abandoned as they deteriorated. (I still have some of them and would love to have one turned into a cold frame.) This looks like the light fluffy powdered sugar-type of snow that doesn't roll into snowballs. Obviously, we did have a snowfall that was snowball worthy as represented by the snowman on the left. I do remember Carole wouldn't keep her mittens on and kept taking them off to touch the snow. Eventually, we had to go inside because her fingers were red with cold. I'm pretty sure that snowsuit is downstairs in the trunk. Maybe the hat and mittens are too.
I look out across the still green grass of my front lawn and snow, even the blizzard of 2010, seem a distant memory. I remember the Christmas Eve nights when we'd pile into the car and drive to church for the children's Christmas service. The snow was shoved up so high along the curbs in town and the gravel roads were icy. I remember the blackness of the sky and wondering what it had looked like on the night Jesus was born. I remember being so cold just walking from the car to the church. I don't ever remember a December or a Christmas in Iowa without snow until the 1980's. Perhaps there were, but I don't remember them.
I remember a bitterly cold December in Chicago when we drove into the city on Christmas Eve and walked Michigan Avenue. The shoppers were gone. There were a few people out, wanderers like us, admiring the windows, the lights and the stillness of one of Chicago's busiest locations. I remember the temperature was below zero and the wind made it feel like -24. I don't know why I remember that number but I do. Snow was 3 feet deep in the back yard. We giggled and ooh'ed and ahhh'ed at the windows. The horse rides were around Water Tower Place and I remember the steam from the breath of the horses and their drivers huddled in a circle drinking hot drinks and chatting.
I remember the McDonald's at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Superior Street. It was open when almost nothing else was. It was bright and cheery inside. When we went in, there were a couple of Chicago cops and we were greeted by a very warm, "Merry Christmas!" from the people behind the counter. We got hot cocoa and sat by the window watching the cold descend upon the city. I remember driving home and not seeing a soul on State Street. We could drive by the then Marshall Field's flagship store and look at their windows without leaving the car. There was no one behind us to honk so we could drive and stop.
I do remember a Christmas of 65 degrees. I had a cold but I remember us standing on the deck in the afternoon's thin sunshine marveling that it was the end of December and it was 65 degrees. "Wow, we'll never see this again!" Um...yeah.
Technically, Chicagoland has a 50-50 chance of a white Christmas even if the weather was normal. I think it was in the late 1960's and 1970's when there was talk of an early ice age. Perhaps we should have paid attention to the abnormalities of harsher winters. I don't think any climate model could have predicted this kind of warmth and drought.
"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know." Well, sort of. I'll take 3-5 inches, just enough to line the trees and fence posts, but not too much to make shoveling a chore. Then, I could handle rain instead of snow. It's easier to drive in, for sure.
Beverage: Huckleberry tea