We're at the height of winter here in Wisconsin. There's been snow on the ground for two months and three more months of snow are still coming ... and it's snowing right now as I type this introduction. It's getting to that point of the school year when students and teachers start thinking about the possibility of a snow day. I ain't sayin'. I'm just sayin'.
And that means going outside to play. To everyone who lives in a similar climate, my latest newspaper column will be preaching to the choir. But for those of you who live where sandals never get stored away and dressing warm means taking a sweatshirt "just in case," this might be an educational article.
Either way, I hope you enjoy it. Here's the original on the newspaper's site, and here's the printable version.
Getting ready to play outside in the winter is a unique childhood event. Yes, grown-ups still play outside, but to adults, getting ready is just a necessary step. To kids, getting ready is an experience unto itself.
Every generation shares this experience, but today’s collection of pint-sized Arctic explorers benefits from twenty-first century technological advancements.
Have you seen the equipment kids are wearing outside these days? It’s more than plain old winter clothes. This stuff is micro-fleeced, moisture-wicking, overlapping, synthetic creations from genius designers who remember, as children, sacrificing personal warmth at the altar of frozen fun.
In my day jackets were purchased to fit. “Stand up,” Mom would say. “Put your arms down. Stand normal. Let me check those sleeves. Yes, good. Right where they need to be.” Gloves, or mittens more accurately, were knit by Grandma to fit. Cover the hand, cuff at the wrist, good to go.
Then the moment you started digging in the snow, the sleeves slipped up, the mittens slipped down, and your exposed wrists entered the first stages of frostbite.
Today kids are wearing gloves that nearly reach their elbows with snow-stopping buckles and Velcro straps. Jacket sleeves have an under layer designed to go inside the glove complete with a thumb hole to keep it from riding up. We had shirts with long sleeves. You’d bunch the cuff in your hand then try to put on your jacket with clenched fists.
Today’s kids have boots with super-grip soles and elastic ties and laces and more Velcro straps. They’re slip-proof, cold-proof, snow-proof and water-proof.
My boots weren’t slip-proof as much as they were slip-ready. You’d zoom across any patch of ice, snow or wet pavement. Their insulation was called another pair of socks. And because, like the jacket, the boots were purchased to fit, extra socks packed your toes tighter than then snow in Frosty’s bottom layer. Water proofing came from empty bread bags around each foot. Not exactly moisture-wicking.
Today’s snow pants also have two layers, one inside the boot to the ankle and a second over the boot to the heel. No way snow gets inside. My snow pants welcomed snow like Vegas welcomes tourists. Boots never stayed tucked, and the exposed inch of skin above the boot quickly matched your frostbitten wrists.
Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. The equipment may be updated, but the process remains tried and true.
Sit down. Put on boots.
Stand up. Put on jacket. Grab snow pants.
Sit down. Take off boots. Start to put on snow pants.
Stand up. Take off jacket. Buckle shoulder straps of snow pants.
Sit down. Put on boots.
Stand up. Put on jacket. Zip.
Put on gloves. Grab hat.
Take off gloves. Put on hat.
Put on gloves. Find Mom. Ask her to tuck the gloves under the jacket sleeves.
(Alternatively, some children prefer to put on gloves before jacket resulting in perfectly tucked gloves. These children still need Mom to zip.)
And hey, would you look at that? It’s snowing. Time to go outside aqznmd p;l.asjyuh.
Right. Sorry. Got a little excited there. I need to finish the article before I put on my mittens.
Then it’ll be time to go outside and play.