Somehow I never learned to dress for the cold weather. Even though I grew up in New York City, I was the one kid on the playground who never had her mittens. In high school I would wear a miniskirt, knee socks, sneakers with holes in them, and a short little wool pea coat — even in the deepest part of the winter. I could have taken the bus to school, but it was so much cooler to walk along the edge of Alley Pond Park with the bad boys. By the time I got to school, my thighs would be red and frozen. They often didn’t thaw out until the end of second period. All afternoon my legs would sting with pins and needles. At the end of the day I would leave school and never think to put on a hat. What, mess my hair? Never. Gloves? Too busy smoking.
When I moved up to Woodstock in the early ’70s, I woke up every day from October to April, went outside in a T-shirt and panties, and said, “Boy, it’s cold.”
A normal outfit for me in those days was a little spring dress and a leather jacket that didn’t close. If it was really cold I wore thin tights, and my concession to warmth was biker boots instead of low-tops.
My husband was always suggesting down or fleece, but I scoffed. I believed firmly in fashion over function.
Then my Sunday night dinner group decided that we would pick one name out of a hat and go crazy buying that person the perfect holiday present. We picked the names over Labor Day weekend, so we had plenty of time to think about it. This Secret Santa thing became an important part of our lives.
One year, my friend Chris picked my name. When December rolled around, she handed me a big white box. The first thing I took out was a one-piece ski suit. Black. Sleek. Beautiful. A thick black zippered sweater. A pair of thin ski gloves that fit… well, like a glove. Wool socks. Silk long underwear. A fleece neck warmer. Fake fur ear muffs. And a pair of boots that were plush and comfortable and warm enough for the Arctic.
I oohed and aahed and held each item up to my face and reveled in its softness. I wondered if I would ever wear any of it.
Maybe I just wasn’t a winter kind of gal. I was a rebel. I wore lingerie as outerwear. Maybe it didn’t matter that I could never take those after-dinner walks that my friends so loved, because I was too busy huddling by the woodstove.
And then someone gave me the most fabulous rib-eye steak from Fleisher’s Meats in Kingston. I wanted to grill it, but it was 12 degrees outside. I thought about it all day. I went home, put on the long underwear, the ski suit, the sweater, the boots, the neck thingy, the ear muffs, and the gloves. I walked outside, and for the first time in my life I was dressed for the weather. I stayed with the grill and watched those coals turn from black to red to gray. I grilled that steak to perfection.
Now, on the coldest days of the year, that’s me in the ski suit, walking down the road. Finally, we’ve made our peace, the winter and me.