Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't forget your coat!

I saw something amazing today at the park. A school field trip group chose to sit in the middle of the parking lot rather than in the picnic area to have their lunch. The kids, dressed in crisp school uniforms and showing marvelous manners, sat obediently adjacent to their chaperones' cars and vans.

I stared, struck by the sight. Why did the teachers prefer such dining space over the ample seating around picnic tables in the meadow?

I deduced that the cold temperatures were the culprit. Most of the children were wearing sweaters and light jackets rather than winter gear, due likely, I suspect, to the fact that this cold snap has caught most of us off guard. The only sunshine in the park at that hour is on that parking lot and over the ballfields. So perhaps the teachers were trying to give the kids a bit of warmth.

I kept my fingers crossed that one of the Parks or Sanitation department trucks didn't come lumbering through while they were eating.

We live in transition from house to car or van to school or work. Why spend good money on heavy coats, don hats and gloves, when they'll be needed such brief moments? I tell my kids we need to have heavy coats in the van in case we break down - be prepared for anything!  They roll their eyes and "forget" to grab a coat, leaving me to trudge indoors, grab the gear, and toss it in the back just in case. No, we've never been stranded. But I'm a mom. So I imagine the worst and prepare.

The one or two truly cold days, those blasted ice storms we get with some regularity, as well as the occasional, much-looked-for snow day, makes special demands on our coat closet. We cobble together waterproof coats and bottoms from Scout gear, snow bibs picked up at Goodwill (I try to stay one size ahead), hiking boots, rain boots, and hats. Why spend good money on ski gloves and hats when they're used so infrequently? They kids get soaked and frozen, I keep the dryer running so their mittens and hats dry out, and somehow they find plenty of time to enjoy the snow.

During the Tour de Pink this past weekend, it was really, REALLY cold in the pitch dark of the early morning. My daughter's Girl Scout troop tied pink balloons everywhere and I kept careful watch on them, while taking occasional breaks at the roaring wood fire manned by my son's Boy Scout troop (yay!). Many of the grown up volunteers were dressed for a usual Southern October, which meant they were freezing their bike shorts off. Strong Starbucks coffee kept us warm for the first couple of hours, then the McDonald's across the street did a brisk business as we darted in and out for some more liquid warmth.  (We had a wonderful time - the survivors' race group was awesome, Miss Georgia a darling, and the coordinators friendly and energetic.)

This cold snap will quickly pass and by Halloween, the kids are likely to be sweating again under their costumes. That's Fall and Winter in the South: mild enough to forget your coat, then brutally cold without warning.

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