Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Frigid Chicago Fall

Okay, it has finally happened. I've lost my Midwestern hardiness, and now I'm a cold weather wimp. This was graphically proven to me this past weekend, when I returned to Chicago for a brief visit. My husband and I went out to dinner with a group of friends, and afterwards we stood outside the restaurant, chatting for a while. It was in the mid to low 70s, and suddenly I realized that I was cold!

I used to love it when the fall chill started to creep into the air. I was born in October, and fall has always been my favorite season. Sure, I have always loved spring in Chicago, when winter's long, vicious chill is finally chased away and the barren landscape turns green once again. But there's something special about October; I love the crispy, multicolored leaves, the smell of bonfires and fireplaces, and the coming of Halloween, that Holy Grail of holidays for sugar-addicted, voyeuristic children like myself.

Sure, Christmas presents are fun, but the excitement climaxes in mere minutes; you rip them open, and suddenly the best part of the fun is over. When I was a kid, we'd head out early with a shopping bag and trick or treat for hours, wandering from one end of the neighborhood to the next until our booty was too heavy to carry. Back then, there were no worries about razor blades or peanut allergies. We all knew the "best" houses, where homemade popcorn balls or taffy apples were distributed.

When I got too old for trick or treat, I'd go on hayrides at the various riding stables where I worked as a teenager. Back then, the rides were horsedrawn; now, all the barns in my old Chicago stomping grounds have switched to tractors, and it's just not the same. There was something hypnotic about the clip-clop of the drafthorses' hooves as they pulled the wagons down the street and the people inside held spirited hayfights and passed around jugs of homemade watermelon wine.

Later still, after I got married, my husband and I became haunted house connoisseurs. We visited every spook house within a 50 mile radius, sometimes dragging along a niece, searching for the ultimate scare. I had a couple of favorites. One was called "Area 54"; they blinded you with cornea searing lights before spinning you around and thrusting you into complete darkness. The climax was getting shot at with machine guns before you finally "escaped." The other was a haunted house with permanent sets, held in an abandoned church. Because they could leave it set up all year, it was much more elaborate than most. The best effect was a room where you were locked in and buried under gray plastic balls like the ones at Chuckie Cheese's (it's much more terrifying when it happens unexpectedly and in total darkness). Sadly, the church was sold, so it was dismantled.

But now, if I were still in Chicago, I'd have to particpate in all the fun while wearing a thermal insulated jacket. While my husband and our friends stood around comfortably, I was shivering in my shoes. Hubby still heads up north ten days a month, so he hasn't lost his hardiness yet. But a summer spent in the Florida sun has turned my blood as thin as red ink. I retreated to the warm environs of the car while the others snickered at me.

I remember when I used to gasp at the Florida heat and wonder how people tolerated it all summer; now, when I stepped off the airplane in Orlando, I felt the humidity smack me on the jetway and sighed in relief.

I do have one worry: officially, it's not even fall in Chicago yet, and already I'm ready to break out a jacket. I'm going to have to wear a full body thermal suit with heated undies by the time January rolls around!

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1 comment:

Kathy Holmes said...

I know what you mean. Our first year here somebody said "when it gets down to 70 I wear jeans" and I thought, "No way." But, yes, that's so true. And along about now, I can't wait to wear jeans again. So much for thinking I'd be swimming year-round in the pool. :)