Growing up in the north, winter always was the major season. Minnesota sometimes has snow all the way from October till May. With that being said, it’s hard to feel like a northern without mentioning the cold. It defines us – gives us a common distaste. We experience it together every year.
Where I’m from, we’re always talking about the weather. We bond over how we managed to get out of our driveways with a foot and half of snow. I once had my car doors freeze shut and I had to grab an extension cord and hair dryer. Yes, I was outside in the cold, at 6 in the morning, defrosting my car locks. It was awful.
Since moving down to South Carolina, I feel like I’ve lost that social aspect of my life. Here the weather barely drops below freezing. A friend from here had never even seen snow. Instead of winter being defined by snowplows, starting your car fifteen minutes before you leave home, or using a broom to clear the newly fallen snow off the roof of your car, it just gets cold here.
The days get shorter. The leaves don’t change color, they just fall from the trees and rot on the ground. There’s a dryness that keeps the air feeling sharp. When it does rain, it becomes gloomy. There isn’t any jokes about snowfall or any hope about getting school cancelled.
Everyone that I work with comes from different parts of the country. My coworkers are from New York, Alabama, California, Texas, and everywhere else. Winter means something different for them – whether that be holidays or, for my friends in Florida, waves of travelers hoping to escape winter for a few days.
See, in the north, winter isn’t loved. Facebook floods with agony when the first snow falls. There’s a collective groan because everyone knows they’ll soon have to plow their driveways again. Yet, we’re together in our stewing.
In Charleston, we’re caught in sort of purgatory. Winter isn’t loved here either. We no longer go to the beaches on the weekends or walk downtown in shorts. We put on our jackets, in the 40 degree weather, and stay inside. But it’s different from the north.
I think there’s an appreciation for winter in Minnesota. It isn’t loved, by any means, but it’s an inevitable part of our lives. We must face winter each year. In each direction we look there’s either a ‘winter wind advisor’ or, yet again, an incoming onslaught of snow. Greeting the cold is almost a reminder that life has difficulties – we must all face it together. When spring arrives, we know that we’ve conquered something. We’ve grown in a way.
In Charleston, we’re not quite “winter”. We’re between the north, which has mountains and snow, and the south, where we could escape winter’s cold breath. We’re entangled in a mix. The temperature drops but nothing really changes. The days get dark but we don’t really have any struggle. There aren’t many funny stories you can tell about a cold, snowless winter day here.
In the Minnesota, you can go to a Target anytime January through March, and expect to see cars running in the parking lot. It’s so cold that people leave their vehicles running while they shop. Their doors aren’t locked and you can spot each car that is left on. The exhaust leaves a plume of smoke that reminds you how cold it really is.
If you take boiling water into the Minnesotan winter and throw out in the air, it turns instantly into vapor. The water from your cup never reaches the ground, it goes straight into a fog. When you want a drink cooled off, you walk outside and put it into a snowbank for a few minutes. If you own cats, their company at night is invaluable to keeping your feet warm.
While, yes, there is a lot of hate tossed towards winter in the north, I think it’s a lot better than the cold and the rain. Secretly I think we love the snow, broomball, and wearing flip-flops the moment the temperature reaches 45 degrees. There’s something we can call our own about all of it. We’ve all survived the fallout and winter’s cold grasp. We can appreciate sleeping with six blankets on or going for a walk in 5 layers.
It’s bizarre, perhaps that’s the reason we love it, because inside we know that we could leave. We could disappear from the glistening snow. Why would anyone want to go to work in -30 degree weather or wait for their car to warm up? I think we love it because it’s absurd to think about living there. Where else can you freeze your hands to your steering wheel? Where else can you rejoice about seeing the snowplow clear the two feet of snow that had fallen last night?
It’s absurd that anyone would want to experience Minnesota but for those who live there, it’s really something else. The winter is a challenge that we overcome each year in the north, and I miss that. I miss Minnesnowta. Exploded cans of soda in the trunk and all.
P.S. That picture at the beginning of the post was taken by my loving mother, who mocked and videotaped me while I shoveled.