Escaping the Cold

Having grown up in the northeastern United States, my idea of what was ‘normal’ in terms of climate was several degrees cooler than that held by people living in the southern half of this country. But I didn’t know that then.

My vision was so skewed to the lower half of the thermometer that after high school I considered it within the range of normal to move even further north, from western New York State to northern Vermont, where I attended the University of Vermont for four years. Those four years were very cold–cold enough to freeze my brain into some kind of lock position where I never even thought that there might be a choice in the weather situation. I stayed for thirteen more years beyond my graduation.

Eventually, in my seventeenth year in the frozen tundra, I began to ask myself questions. Had my brain begun to thaw? In the winter of that year–one of the worst in terms of non-stop blizzards and unrelenting, extreme cold–I threw a suitcase into the back of my Volkswagon Rabbit and drove to Miami. There had to be another way to get through the months from October to June and I was determined to find it.

On February 1st I stopped at Hilton Head Island and couldn’t believe my eyes. There were daffodils blooming. My shock at this anomaly of nature as I knew it was profound and it had a lasting and far-reaching effect. Surely I had landed ‘over the rainbow.’ Later that spring I moved to Atlanta.

Eighteen years later, I was wondering if I hadn’t overshot my mark in fulfilling my desire to get warm. The southern summer that year was ferocious in terms of heat and humidity, and yet for all the humidity, there was very little rain–another aberration of nature.

The result of all this torridness was that most people, and I was among them, became prisoners of the often chilly confines of the air conditioned indoors. Who would have thought, back in the years spent in Vermont’s frigid climate, that one day I would be willingly escaping to and becoming a prisoner of an artificially produced arctic environment?

A strange thing happens to those of us who were originally northerners, moved south to thaw out icy bones and numbed gray matter. We seem, sooner or later, to gravitate to the very environment that drove us out of where we came from.

A case in point was recently reported to me by a friend who spends a few weeks each summer visiting his father in San Antonio–where average summer temperatures hover around the 100 degree mark.

My friend was complaining of the extreme COLD of his father’s condominium. His father keeps it that way by choice. My friend says that it is SO COLD that he has to go outside from time to time just to thaw out his toes by walking around in his bare feet on the hot pavement. At night he is huddled under multiple layers of blankets and comforters while the outside overnight low is around 90.

When he asks his father about why he keeps things SO COLD, his father replies that he just can’t take the heat. Next question my friend asks his father is, “Then why did you move here in the first place?”, his father originally being from several states to the north. The answer is, interestingly enough, “To get out of the cold.”

Amazing isn’t it? Is it that we can never be satisfied or is it just that we were imprinted somehow with the climate in which we grew up and the inner urge to always gravitate back to it?

Funny that I hear of far fewer people moving north to get cool than I do of the masses moving south to warm up. Maybe somebody should warn these migrating northerners that for whatever reason you can’t really escape where you come from.

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