Chicago Loves Winter

Chicago Loves Winter

Chicago Loves Winter

Today’s snowy preview remind me that it was going to get cold again in Chicago this year….

Ah, Chicago winter. Yes, it will come again this year. That notoriously bleak sludgefest, bone chilling and impenetrable. Ice scrapers and road salt stains, moldy boots and slippery driving, lumpy gray snowdrifts punctuated by flaxen splashes of dog pee. And Chicagoans loves it.

We’re supposed to, anyway.

“Chicago ain’t no sissy town,” said the infamous First Ward alderman Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna. That was in 1907, and a century later most of Chicagoans still cannot imagine a crueler insult than being called a sissy. When I married Joe, some of our worst fights were over his firm assertion that I was not cold when I wanted to turn the heat up. Not cold? I pointed to the dog’s water bowl, which was covered with a layer of ice. He called me a crybaby. I called my mother.

Over the years, I have noticed a few things about how Chicagoans handle the winter…let me share.

Suffering: Just watch the news and you’ll see how we suffer in the winter. Hunched-over little old ladies bracing themselves against the wind and cold while waiting for the bus. Ask one if she wants a ride and she will spit at you. People still trade tales of woe about Snowpocalypse 2011, when Mother Nature turned the city into her own personal icicle and Lake Shore Drive into a car cemetery—but they ignore last year’s freakishly warm winter like it never happened. Chicago must uphold its image as a martyr, and comfort is the enemy of martyrdom. Chicagoans don’t valet park, either. But that is a post for another time.

Eggnog and fireplaces. Also known as the Let It Snow defense, this one trades on cozy, turtlenecked indoor images that rarely exist in reality. For a few snuggly days before Christmas, maybe. But by Groundhog Day, when Yuletide cheer turns to black ice, the only chestnuts anyone wants to roast on the open fire are Jack Frost’s.

It toughens you up. Runners rise and shine at 5:45 a.m., putting on ridiculous layers, and running through ice patches and tundra slush—just to show they can. School cancellations, or CPS’s stubborn lack thereof, seem to be the barometer for toughness. Chicagoans believe you can’t appreciate the warm unless you endure the cold. Right. Joe’s dad once told me that without winter, there would not be tulips. I looked at him like he’d lost his mind. He just nodded sagely. I interpreted this to mean that which does not kill you will make you stronger.

Winter separates real Chicagoans from the phonies. The lifers claim that February’s desolation is the price you pay to live in this fine city, a test of inner strength that proves whether you belong. In other words, if you can’t deal with a little frostbite on your eyeballs, move to Florida, you big baby. These are the same people who, during vacations in warmer climates , obsessively check the weather back home. Joe was one of these people; I’m pretty sure he never recovered from missing the Christmas blizzard of 1999, when instead of shoveling snow we were visiting my parents in Houston. Damn.

Today, I had the best seat in the house, sitting at my desk overlooking the yard and watching as the sleet finally gave way to big snowflakes that covered the last of fall. After watching for a bit, I grabbed my camera and went out to take a few pictures and then headed to the grocery store, where I stood in line and listened to two Chicagoans banter about the weather. How did I know they were born and raised Chicagoans? Because they immediately reached an agreement when one said to the other, “It’s going to be a real cold winter this year.”

And now for your viewing pleasure a few snow day pictures….

Chicago Early Winter

My lilacs are fading out….

Chicago Early Winter

My pine trees wear snow so well . . .

Seemore winter denial

Seemore Winter Denial . . .

Odd Loves Company!

14 thoughts on “Chicago Loves Winter

  1. I’ve been away from true winter for so long I see winter through Currier & Ives glasses. I know, I know. Just being honest. Enjoy the small window of winter wonderland before it becomes a pain in the…..

    • Well, I love winter through my large windows. Nothing is prettier than when the first snows start to fall and silently blanket the earth. Snow days are fun and private school indulge the kids more than the public schools. Hot Chocolate and mini-marshmallows is a wonderful treat. It is the days that follow…the grey, cold, slush, car so dirty you can’t stand it, slipping on ice….BUT I will take all that over July and August in your neck of the woods…I can’t breath and I melt. 😀

  2. I was in Chicago one February and thought I would die every time I took a step outside. I’v never experienced cold like that before or since. Cold and wind are a lethal combination and for the week I was visiting the wind chill put the temps below 0. It did not seem to bother the Chicagoans but they did kick the heat up for me. Chicago is a great city and I’ve enjoyed visiting in warmer weather but never again in the winter.

    • Poor Mike. I’ve heard other people say the same thing. Most out-of-towner’s should avoid Chicago in the winter whenever possible. The wind is a killer when it pierces through you.

  3. I am not thrilled about the snow at all. I came home from Minneapolis yesterday expecting a snow covered landscape and yes–the ground is covered but just barely. i think we escaped the big one so far. I think I should have taken in the furniture on the deck.
    I love the Chicago stubbornness—-yes–I think a true Chicagoan has the market on the snow stories and the willingness to share how back in 09 (or whenever) the temperatures did not get about 0 degrees for 45 days, etc.
    Time for a nice hot cup of tea and a couple of pups to snuggle with, right?

    • Chicagoans are a funny breed that is for sure. And your right about being stubborn you have to be willing to preserve. Not as much now as in the old days, but I have a feeling this winter is going to remind a lot of people about the winters back in the day.
      It is suppose to be 50 this weekend so I guess it’s going to be a gradual dissent. . .cue jaws music.

  4. I love snow in the Southwest ..not the Midwest..BRRRRRR !
    In New Mexico or Texas, if we are lucky enough to get snow I enjoy it because I know in a day or two it will be gone.I grew up in Illinois so I can relate..the Chicago area is a great place to live if you can handle cold, snow, wind and rain..but Chicago has a lot of great things to offer . There are things worse than a few bad weather days in some other cities. I live in the safest large city in the country…El Paso, Tx..right across the border from one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Juarez, Mexico. ugh… 8)

    • Snow in the mountains is so pretty. Snow is only pretty for the first day and then it is dirty, slushy, and sticks to everything. I read that about El Paso. So interesting. I wonder if the Mexican drug lords keep it safe for their families. The mayor of Juarez lives in EP right?

  5. Well, I might be a Midwesterner by birth, but I’m a Southerner at heart. Long, dreary days with snow on the ground and no hope of Spring for six months (at least!) isn’t my idea of pleasant. Nope, I’d much prefer having a nice White Christmas, then — except for a few cold days just to remind you it’s winter — an early Spring!
    Thanks for your pictures. We got a dusting overnight, but I haven’t gotten around to doing much about it yet. The Southerner in me wants to curl up with a cuppa tea and a good book, ha!

    • Funny, I can handle winter pretty well until March and then my expectations kick in that it should be warm and of-course that really doesn’t happen until late May. It’s the grey that is the killer…cold without sun shine is pure drudgery. At least we don’t have to drive to work! I agree curled up with a good book and a cuppa on a winter day is the best.

  6. How do you know every little flake is different? I lived in Wisconsin before there were such thing as wind chill factors. All I know for sure is I NEVER want to be that cold again!

    • That is a very good question but I think we have to just accept things on faith. Wisconsin winters are colder than Chicago…unless you’re spending them in Mimi’s house and they they are as hot as Florida in August.

  7. I do believe the Chicago wind is the killer. Spent a few times with Cindy and Aidan when they lived in the apt right on the lake and let me tell you, I didn’t get warm until I got back home in my warm house. That apartment was the coldest place I have ever had to spend any time in. Brick building with poor heat, windows that the wind came through. Once in bed, I hated to get up in the morning and get cold again just trying to get dressed. We would curl up the 3 of us on the couch with a big comforter and the fireplace going and still be cold. Zella would creep up with us if she could get away with it. Glad I don’t have to go to that place again.Her place now is warm and sunny.

    • That sounds awful–add gruel and you have Oliver Twist. I’m with you warm and sunny inside during the winter months! My mother has a few of those stories to share too, tho. Something about how could a daughter of hers run out of TP.

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