Could my mother have found an uglier snowsuit? I do not think so. To be fair, I suppose that there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with the snowsuit if I had been a boy, but from a feminine point of view it’s pretty bad. Never mind that, I don’t think there is another article of clothing that I got more use out of during the first year we were in Missouri. We had moved from California in August, and the heat was something I had never experienced before. How can that be? How is it possible that a 7 year-old from Southern California could go to the middle of the country and be shocked by the heat? I’ll tell you. It was a little thing we Midwesterners (and Easterners as I later found out) like to call humidity. It was so hot, that during the first few weeks of school, all the students had to bring in cups so that we could keep water at our desks to prevent dehydration. The period of time that I lived in California was one of the driest in history. I barely remember rain before Missouri, and I had certainly never seen a thunderstorm. Boy, was I in for a set of meteorological experiences over that next year!
From August to early October, it was warm (read: HOT!), but after that the weather took a definite turn. I had my heart set on being a mermaid for Halloween, and since my mother was in the habit of trying to keep me happy, she put together a mermaid costume complete with bikini top and a netted fin. It was very sporting of her, but not very…sensible. That first Halloween, it snowed. One more time just to let it sink in: it SNOWED! On Halloween! I made a few mad dashes from the car to various front doors to get the minimum required candy in my mermaid outfit, which had been altered to include a thermal underwear shirt under the bikini top, but was still woefully inadequate for keeping me warm. That’s one time that I wished that I had been wearing the snowsuit: ugly or not.
Halloween was not the first time I had seen snow. As a matter of fact, I had seen quite a bit of snow in California. We would drive up to the mountains, jump out of the car, play in the snow until our hands got cold, and drive back down to the warm weather. I knew about snow machines that make sure that the powdery stuff is available for skiers, but one thing I hadn’t seen before Missouri was snow falling from the sky. I was sitting in Mrs. M’s third grade classroom. She didn’t like me much. She had no experience with well-traveled children from other places. She was one of those people who were Missouri born, bred, and raised. She had never been further than Arkansas, and she couldn’t imagine that a 7 year-old had been to Europe, so she assumed that I was making up stories to make the other children envy me. The day that it started snowing, it was after lunch, and she was having trouble keeping my attention as usual. When the snow started to fall, there was no chance of her getting me to focus. Out of sheer frustration, she shouted, “Come on! It’s not like you’ve never seen snow before!” Being the clueless child that I was, I answered her honestly, “Well, not falling from the sky! In California, they made it with machines!” That was not what she wanted to hear. In fact, she would have preferred that I said nothing, but as far as she was concerned, I said the worst thing that I could have said…a lie. Ahh, ignorance thy name is redneck! That day we got out of school early, and little did I know, it was going to be an extended break.
We broke out the snowsuit again that day, and I wore it over and over again that season. It was the coldest, snowiest winter Southwest Missouri experienced in 100 years. As Californians, we were again, woefully unprepared. We learned that winter about parking our cars at the top of the ¼ mile long driveway, so that we didn’t have to shovel the entire hill to get out. We learned that it is immensely important to stock up before a storm because you never know how long you might be stuck in the house. We learned that it’s really a good idea to leave the light bulb in the well house on when it’s cold, and that burst pipes are not cheap to fix. I learned that as long as you don’t need to go anywhere, it is awesome when it gets just warm enough to melt the top layer of snow before it freezes again because then you don’t need a sled to hurdle at light speeds down the hill in the back yard. There were so many snow days that winter that Chris thought that his birthday had been declared a school holiday like Christmas, and come may I was introduced to another phenomenon that Californians are unfamiliar with…Saturday school.
Might think that over the harsh winter my blood would have thickened, and I would have been used to the cold, but you would be wrong. Come spring, it couldn’t get warm enough for me, and I kept right on wearing that snowsuit long after everyone else had put away their winter clothes. My arms and legs stretched 6 inches past the end of the suit before I was willing to put the thing away.