Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Matter of Perspective

Watching the weather forecast tonight, I was reminded that so many things in life are simply a matter of perspective. The weatherman is solemnly warning that a cold snap is on the way. I've learned that cold in Central Florida is typically defined as overnight temperatures in the 40s, with wind chills in the 30s. Right about now, I'm sure that people in Chicago would argue with that definition; I suspect they would kill for anything above freezing.

As I type this, the mercury in my old home town is hovering at 15 degrees. At least that's up from a bitter single-digit snap that engulfed the city earlier this week. By Christmas, they might be flirting with a daily high of 35, while Celebration and the rest of the Disney World area will be basking in the 60s and 70s.

If it weren't for the Christmas lights, I'd find it hard to believe that the holiday is less than a week away. The grass is still vibrant and green, and only a handful of trees have lost their leaves. Flowers still bloom in gardens throughout town, and even though the native Floridians might be shivering, tourists and new residents still parade proudly in shorts.

I remember the "old days," when my husband and I made our annual pre-Christmas pilgrimage to Disney World. We'd be bundled in heavy coats, breath puffing like smoke as we hustled into the airport to escape the frigid Chicago winter air. We were happy to leave the bleak, icy land of bare, skeletal trees and dirty-gray snow.

Our excitement always grew as our plane winged its way south. Slowly but surely, the landscape below would change from gray to vibrant color like the scene in "The Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy opens the farmhouse door and her black-and-white world turns to dazzling Technicolor splendor. As the plane prepared for landing, we'd spot the green grass and foliage-laden trees below and breath a sign of relief. After a month of winter, I can't describe how good it felt when the humidity hit me on the jetway, enclosing me in a cocoon of welcome sticky heat.

Now I can bask in mild winter weather every day. It's been almost a year since we moved full-time to Florida, and every time I hear a Chicago forecast, the wisdom of our decision is reinforced.

Of course, it's been a little sad to lose my Northern heartiness. Because my husband still has to go north frequently for work, he still has a Chicagoan's resistence to the cold. But he laughs at me because my blood has already thinned. This afternoon, it was bright and sunny so I donned shorts before we walked over to a friend's house a few blocks away. We stayed for a couple of hours, and the sun was hiding behind the clouds and starting its descent when we headed back to Duloc Manor. I was cold! He snickered at me for shivering while he was comfy and content in shorts. Damn smarmy Northeners!

Last year, when my blood was still thick, I swam in the neighborhood pools late into the year. The pool at Lakeside Park is heated, but the rest of the pools in Celebration are at the mercy of the outside air temperature. At my level of heartiness, I could swim down into the low 70s, but now I won't even go to Lakeside. Instead, I stick to our steamy 99 degree hot tub, and I make a mad dash into the house when I finally have to force myself out.

Cold, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and I've cheerfully embraced the Florida definition. When the mercury dips below 60, look for me in my mittens and earmuffs. Here in Central Florida, that's arctic.

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