Cathy Hamilton: A slow warm-up to winter

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I’d planned a diatribe for the column this week. It was to be a rant about the cold weather, a rage against the obscene temperatures — sub-freezing digits that leave my digits numb despite two pairs of gloves.

I was going to rail at the elements that turn friendly, happy Midwest­erners into grumpy Gusses with pained faces who don’t smile when they pass one another on the sidewalk, much less say “hello.”

Nothing was going to escape my wrath, especially my old, drafty house that, in certain places, can blow out a match without help from human breath. Not to mention waking up to stone-cold toilet seats in the morning.

I planned to curse the cord of firewood I purchased as a Christmas present to my husband. Logs of “seasoned” walnut and oak were delivered sopping wet on Christmas Eve, then froze solid, the moisture trapped inside. That wood is the bane of our existence every night — slow to light without an excess of kindling and a pain in the patoot to keep burning.

I would have complained that it’s hard to look sexy dressed in multiple layers of Cuddle Duds, flannel pajamas and fleece. The Michelin Man look doesn’t lend itself to seduction. I don’t care how healthy your body issues are.

And what about the godforsaken snow? My husband has suffered six stints shoveling the driveway since Christmas Day. It’s backbreaking work.

Not that I’d know.

Our driveway has to be cleared in a certain way and my technique doesn’t pass muster with the lead shovel-meister.

(Not that I’ve tried, or even volunteered. But I worry.)

This column was going to let the cold weather have it, just like the blow it’s dealt to all of us. Vicious. Brutal. A one-two, knockout punch.

Then, I remembered this is 2010, the year I’m going to take a Norman Vincent Peale approach to everything. I resolved to put Pollyanna to shame with my glass half-full approach to life.

And so, shivering readers, after much dedicated brain-racking, I’ve come up with 10 almost-convincing reasons to like winter:

1) Because, unlike years past, this is a real winter with all the trimmings — snow, ice, subzero wind chills — just like the storied winters of our youth that baby boomers wistfully have longed for.

Remember?

2) Snow is pretty (except for the stuff that piles up by the side of the road and turns black). A lawn full of snow is far more appealing than a lifeless, brown landscape. (Have you ever seen a holiday card featuring a charming New England saltbox surrounded by dead crab grass?)

3) It’s easier to be incognito in winter than in summer. Don’t feel like putting on your face to go to the store? Simply throw on a hat and wrap a muffler around your face. You’ll be in and out of there like a stealth bomber.

4) All wardrobe rules go out the window when it’s 10 degrees outside. You dress for warmth, period. No one in the Midwest is going to take off points if you’re not stylish. Dress like Nanook of the North.

Nobody cares.

5) When you finally do get the fire going, there is nothing more romantic and relaxing than sitting by the fireplace and watching a movie on TV. Add a snoozing cocker spaniel by your side, and you’ve got my idea of heaven.

6) Gruff people with pained faces notwithstanding, there’s a special bonding that happens when Midwesterners come in from the cold together. Sharing stories of frozen pipes, cars not starting and frostbit fingers brings folks together. Misery does love company.

7) A freshly shoveled driveway brings a certain sense of satisfaction. (Or, so I’m assuming.)

8) Turtlenecks are great for covering up turkey neck. If you’re looking a little too jowl-y, stretch the neck up to your nose and cover your entire face. It’s almost as good as a face-lift.

9) Snow days. Yes, I know it’s a pain for parents and day care providers, but I still get a vicarious childlike thrill at those “no school tomorrow” announcements on the news.

10) And finally, a warm bed. Sometimes, there’s nothing left to do to escape the cold than hop in, cover up and wait for the mercury to rise. Even if it’s 8 p.m. And if the dog wants to hop on, too, so be it.

The rules don’t apply at 5 below.

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