Mad about Moisture

My wife is a New Hampshire girl. New Hampshire in the winter is beautiful. One of the beautiful things about the New Hampshire winters – aside from ski hills a stone’s throw in every direction – is that there is moisture in the air. Moisture in winter air is a delightful thing.

When Cynthia and I were hot off the marriage vows we lived in our tiny home in Minnesota. The winter breeze only had a few feet to travel from beneath the front door to the back door. It must have been depressing for the wind to get into our warm little house, only to be leaving again so very quickly. Mid-westerners can be a hearty bunch. I have to be honest and let you know that I’m not one of the hearty ones. Sometimes I think it’s fair to say that the weather wins out. Some of us give up and want to stay inside. There’s always talk of Minnesotans, and Mid-westerners in general, priding themselves on going outside and doing things all winter. You never hear Floridians bragging about being outside all summer. Unless, I just don’t hear it over the buzz of all their air conditioners.

Some years ago it was a Sunday morning in the winter. The sky was a radiant blue. It couldn’t be any brighter. Not a cloud in the aforementioned radiant blue sky. Cynthia wanted to go for a walk. I was compliant. But something deep inside felt wrong. I grew up in the Midwest north and had seen the deception of Mother Nature, especially pertaining to winter. With the icy bright blue sky tricking me, I didn’t think about the moisture.

We got dressed in our winter outside clothes. We were already in our winter indoor clothes. We knew it was cold outside. It had been zero degree weather the past few days. I dressed a little slower than my lovely wife, just in case she decided at the last minute that she would rather read her book. That way I would be closer to getting my boots off and back to my comics (ah, that Beetle Bailey. I don’t know how he stays in the Army).

Not this time. We were headed outside. I touched the door and it was freezing cold- on the inside of our house. That can’t be good. We walked outside. I went first, to feign enthusiasm. We were covered head to toe in puffiness. We had scarves wrapped around our heads because we were too grown up to have face masks. That’s what they were called right? A long hat with holes for your eyes and mouth. In the South they wore white ones. Less about keeping the warmth in and more about getting the hate out.

Cynthia and I started to walk. Nobody was outside. Squirrels that normally scampered up and down a tree were nowhere to be seen. The sky was so bright blue that it jabbed at my eyes. I’m a big fan of the sunglasses, but it’s hard to wear them when it’s so cold. The sun was very high, slowly swimming through the big puddle of blue. The great big lazy sun showed up for work but didn’t bother to lift a finger to make anything warm.

We walked in silence. It was hard to talk when everything was muffled by scarves. It was hard to listen when ears were being protected by every piece of head material we owned. I was irritated by the sun being so far away. In an instant, I stopped, pulled my scarf down and started screaming at the sky.

“Get over here sun! Get over here right now!” I paused. You see good reader, I wasn’t really mad. I continued, “Get over here….now!” Cynthia was slightly amused, but I could tell by the creases in the corner of her eyes that she was ok if I would be done. So, I was. But, you should still know that I wasn’t mad.

But now my face was super cold and since the scarf was off I wanted to do a test. I stopped and slowly spit towards the ground. The small amount of test spit (test spit is not disgusting, it’s scientific) froze before it hit the ground. The sun laughed at me. The test spit was also the moment where the New Hampshire girl realized that she had been tricked by the Midwest sky and sun. The only moisture in the air that day was my test spit.

I had lived many cautious Midwest winters while my wife was growing up in moistury aired New Hampshire skiing and learning to say “wicked decent”, all the time trusting the winter sun and sky – learning to embrace it. You see, fair minded reader, it can get very cold in New Hampshire, but in general you can trust the sun and sky.

As a youth there was many a day that I headed outside because I was drawn there by a bright blue sky’s promise of benevolence. Once outside and away from shelter my lungs would be burned with frost. It was confusing. How could I be frozen on the inside as well? The winter-time snot in my nostrils instantly turned into two green Popsicles (“Nostricles”) All I wanted to do was play, and the evil sun and sky taunted me with heatless light. So, thus, the tone was set. I would evermore be distrustful of bright blue winter skies.

All these memories flooded back to me, and there I stood with my scarf off. I quickly wrapped it around my head. We mumbled through our scarves that it was really cold and we should head back. We walked quickly back. I was afraid if I ran my feet could shatter. It was the longest two block walk of my life. Trying to breathe without opening the mouth too much and trying to reuse the warm nitrogen laden air still trapped in the scarf from the last exhale – breathing like a plant.

We got back inside the house and unbundled. It felt great to be inside. Cynthia was invigorated. Now for some hot chocolate. I tried to explain to her how we were tricked. We didn’t have a thermometer outside so I called the number that gives the local temperature. It was 1995 and I could have gone online if I wanted to wait for AOL to dial up and make the annoying noise. I came off the phone with the temperature. It was minus 25 degrees. We had just walked on Pluto.

I once again talked about the lack of moisture in the air. I didn’t want us to make this mistake again. She didn’t seem to care. It’s like the New Hampshire girl was afraid of nothing. That’s why I loved her. But couldn’t she see how we had been tricked. Why wouldn’t she see? But, no, it didn’t make me mad.

We sat down and drank our hot chocolate in the living room. She was relaxed and happy to have gotten outside. But, there it was. The sun and sky still laughing at me. It was a faint and low rumbling laughter. The laughter ebbed and flowed like the beating of a heart. Could she not hear this? Was she merely taunting me with her calm conversation asking me questions about what I would do today? The sun shone in on her shoulder and she pretended not to notice it, all the while calmly talking. Then I heard her ask me if I was mad.

“Mad?” I asked.

“Mad, because we went outside and it was 25 below.”

I shook my head that I was not, in fact, mad. Why would I be mad. How would I be mad.

She said, “Oh, nevermind.” I think I heard her ask something about how was my hot chocolate. The laughter was getting louder and louder. I could barely take it and I couldn’t concentrate on her mocking words.

Finally, I stormed to the door, flung it open, and screamed at the sun to leave me alone. The cold air bit through my head and touched my brain. Ok, then. I came inside, sat down calmly and finished my hot chocolate. Cynthia asked if I was all done with that. I said I believed I was. Then I looked down and saw that some snow had come off my boot on our hardwood floor. There was quickly a small puddle and it slowly rolled to a crack in the flooring. This made me wonder what kind of sub flooring was under there. Hush mind. Never mind it. Just drink the hot chocolate and don’t worry about any moisture – anywhere. Everything’s Aok and wicked decent. And, I am not mad.


Jason Spafford

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