I am prepared for many contingencies. I always have pen and paper in my purse, along with bandages, pain pills, stomach pills, nail clippers and spare car keys — including keys to cars we no longer own.
I have a blind spot, however, when it comes to the weather.
It was gorgeous when I left the house last Thursday. Bright, sunny, just a hint of chill in the air. I grabbed a denim jacket on my way out the door.
I had no idea my kids’ track meet would last six hours.
I had no idea the temperature would drop to 37 degrees by the end of it.
One runner crossed the finish line and just stood there yelling “Cold! Cold!” Other runners complained that they couldn’t feel their feet.
Athletes huddled in the infield wrapped in blankets. By the end of the evening, the rules had been bent, and kids were allowed to run wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts over their uniforms.
A few parents smart enough to check the weather forecast brought portable propane heaters. The rest of us eyed them hungrily.
I can remember being colder only two times in my life.
Several years ago, on the spur of the moment, we drove up to Cheaha State Park for an overnight stay in the middle of winter. Our kids had a grand time skating on frozen puddles, skittering rocks across a frozen pond and hiking along little streams that were gathering icicles. We stayed in one of the rustic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Its massive stone walls were a testament to craftsmanship.
Its massive stone walls were also stone cold. The fireplace didn’t help. The central heat didn’t help. I think I wound up sleeping in my mittens.
The coldest I have ever been was in Wales. I was tramping around Great Britain on a tour of ancient castles. It was early spring. “Early spring” in Wales does not mean the same thing as “early spring” in the American South. “Early spring” in Wales means “we’d like to attract gullible tourists even though the weather is bloody awful.”
I had taken the train to a tiny town in northern Wales, home to a stone fortress built centuries ago, high atop a hill facing the ocean. I trudged up the hill to the castle.
It was closed.
The rest of the town appeared to be closed, as well.
I trudged back down to the train station, which wasn’t so much a train station as a bus stop. I sat down outside on a bench to wait for the next train.
Did I mention that this was right next to the ocean? And that there was a stiff wind blowing off the ocean? And that there really was no place to shelter from the wind? And that Wales is farther north than Maine?
As I sat on my bench, a miserable shivering lump, a school across the street let out for the day. A handful of schoolgirls came over to the station to wait for the train. They were wearing plaid uniform skirts.
Their legs were bare.
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