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I Will Always Love You – or How I Learned To Survive the Chicago Winter

It’s been a rough winter this year. The past few years had very little snow, temperatures didn’t dip much below 20, not too much ice to slip on.  They weren’t the prettiest of years, what with all the brown and gray of dead vegetation, but they were easy years. Easy peasy.

But this year? This is the year we boast about making it through. This is the year in the future when the young ‘uns are complaining about ONE polar vortex and we say “Well, it’s no 2014. We had TWO polar vortexes (vortexi?) and walked uphill for BOTH” This is the winter that makes us who we are. This is the weather that makes this city.

I like winter, I really do. It’s peaceful and quiet and cozy. But it’s hard too, it’s wearing us down. We’re tired, just getting anywhere is a hassle. Even thinking of going outside is a five-minute clown act of putting on ALL the clothes: boots, socks, another pair of socks, fleece-lined leggings, pants over that, a base shirt, a sweater, a scarf, gloves and hat and um, in the deep freeze? That’s the base layer.

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It’s hard to drive if you have a car, digging in and out of your parking space and spinning over snow drifts.  Once you dig it out you better call dibs or someone else is going to benefit from all that hard work. It’s hard if you’re a pedestrian too. The sidewalks are  ice-rinks, but they’re not flat and smooth ice rinks. No no, they’re like mini- mountain ranges and you’re a huge giant walking over these sidewalk mountains and they’re icy and then it snows so there’s this fine layer of snow over the snowy, mini-mountains and it’s not easy. What is easy is for weak ankles to get stuck in sidewalk valleys.

When it gets REALLY cold (defined by me as a high of zero and below), the Metra trains, the suburban trains, kind of just stop running. You can almost see the trains smile, close their eyes, shake their heads and just give up. The CTA trains get delayed and stop running sometimes. Remember that most of us wait outside for these delayed trains too, with only your mother’s tanning lamp to provide any warmth.

Psychologically it’s hard. My friend John says that no one should make any big decisions in January or February. We’re not in our right minds. We’ve had no sun, no real fresh air, no real exercise…it’s hard on the mind.

It’s hard to breathe in weather that cold. It feels like you can’t even take a full breath.

So you can’t breathe, you can’t walk or drive anywhere. You could go outside and wait for a bus. You could do that.

But here’s the thing, this is it. This IS living in Chicago. And we secretly love it, you know that right? Admit it. It makes us stronger.

And in this passionate love affair we have with this city, we have to love her through this, despite her cold heart.

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We have to see her beauty in her tantrum. Chicago is amazing in this cold. Some of the brightest most beautiful days this year have been the coldest ones. We have to stand back and smile knowingly while she rants. Go ahead, throw snow and Saskatchewan Screamers at us! WE LOVE YOU! We will stand in this pedway and we will love you still Chicago! We will wrap our arms around you and hold you until you calm down and let go, in April…May…June, probably June…

We’ll smile knowingly at each other. Building each other up so we can slip and fall one more time.  We take care of each other. We talk about it and laugh about it and cry about it. We stay inside, we bake, we watch The Good Wife and work on our computers. We sleep, we drink and we go out anyway. We make it to spring, and we rejoice greater than anyone.

We let her cry and pout and scream and turn her shoulder to us.; we let her get it all out.

And if you let her get it all out, let her exhaust herself from tears and tantrums, she will show you her true beauty.

She will. I promise.

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