You can take the girl out of Winnipeg. But can you take Winnipeg out of the girl?
That's what I set to find out this afternoon. I suited up for a winter walk. Parka. Toque. Mitts. Woolen socks. Snow boots. Fleece-lined pants. Big scarf looped around neck, chin, mouth and nose. For my American friends, this translates from Canadian to: "grown up-version snow suit, eh?"
Temperature? 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Wind chill at 6 degrees. Now that's nothing to sneeze at. But what's the conversion to Celsius? Minus 8! Not bad. And what about that wind chill? Right out of the frozen north. Minus 21! YES! NOW we're talking Winnipeg cold.
Yes, indeed. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Place of my birth and my home for the next 25 years of freezing my *** off every winter. My hometown — where the low in the wee hours of February 13, 2016, with the wind factor, plunged to negative 36 Celsius — and the weather bureau cancelled the wind chill warning. A friend who lives there is quoted as saying, "Yeah. If you live here, you know that makes sense."
Ah! Bracing! I stepped outside and sucked in that clear, cold air! And coughed. Oo. Maybe not breathe too deeply. It was a bit chilly. Come on Winnipeg Girl! All I needed was a little positive self-talk. "What are 'ya? Chicken? Have 'ya gone soft living in the South all these years? What a wimp! I'll give 'ya what for, Polar Vortex!"
I started off. One foot in front of the other. In the wrong direction. You guessed it. The wind was at my back. Should have started off INTO the wind. Every Manitoban knows that. Hoo, boy, this is going to be killer on the way home! Oh, stop! You'll survive!"
It's amazing that we did survive childhood in Winnipeg. I didn't know any kid who wasn't tossed outdoors in a snowsuit at minus 20 and told to go play. "It'll put roses in your cheeks!" our mothers told us. There is a fine line between "roses" and frostbite, but never mind, we did what we were told. We went out and played.
I'd take my figure skates to go glide around on the speed skating oval near my school during "public hours." Or a bunch of us would drag toboggans to the old city dump, long ago abandoned, grassed over, and in the winter it iced up to a super-fast, killer sliding hill. We'd go home when our fingers and toes began to hurt. Chill blains. The worst!
We'd build snow forts and wage epic snowball fights against other kids on the street.
My friend's dad drove a delivery van and shoveled snow from the driveway into the backyard of their house. The mountain of snow was way taller than we were at age 7 or 8, so we created a snow house, carving out seats and ledges, and we could stay in there for hours, toasty as two polar bear cubs in an igloo.
The Mister played hockey with neighborhood kids in backyards that were flooded with water at the beginning of the season and would stay frozen for the rest of the winter. That was a Canadian birthright. A ritual performed all across the country.
When we got older, we'd cross country ski on the river. Or go on skating dates at the duck pond in Assiniboine Park. The shelter where we'd put on our skates and pop in to warm up before heading out again smelled like wet mittens and hot chocolate.
My mind was filled with these wonderful memories. I had walked one block when I turned into the wind. And headed home. Bythegeezlouise! It's ******** COLD! There is nothing like a bitter wind to bring out your best swear words.
I made a cup of tea and curled up on the couch.
If anyone wants us for the next week. We'll be in Florida. With all the other Winnipeggers.