Baby it's cold outside -- 12/20/04

The last I checked, it was around 16° F (about -9° C) with winds of 23 mph (with wind gusts of 31mph) bringing the windchill factor down to the equivalent of 0° F (which is what? about minus 18° C?) -- and now that the sun is setting the temperature should drop down into single digits and I am shivering just thinking about the wind chill factor. I must be getting soft; it's been nine years since we left upstate New York to move to Rhode Island and I think I've become to accustomed to the (usually) milder coastal climate. Back there folks don't start to ask "Is it cold enough for you?" until thermometers dip below zero (without taking the wind into account).
We got a little bit of snow this morning. Jill's car parked behind mine in our driveway this afternoon.

And this cold is just here for a brief visit. Tomorrow it's supposed to get back up to freezing or even a degree or two above. In fact, it could reach the mid-fifties on Thursday (around 12° or 13° C) along with rain. It does not appear that we will have a white Christmas.

Today's cold weather combined with yesterday's entry about Christmas traditions... got me thinking about bringing home Christmas trees. I can remember one year being sent off to pick out a tree myself where they were being sold by the candy store across the street from my elementary school. I had brought my sled and towed it home on my sled (a long Flexible Flyer). When I was a kid we always bought a pre-cut tree usually from next to the neighborhood grocery store and I continued that as an adult.

When Nancy and I were living in an apartment in Binghamton, we walked a couple of blocks and bought a tree from someone who filled their front yard with trees at Christmas. When we bought a house (in the same part of town but about half a mile away) we returned to that same lot for our tree. They stopped selling trees and I think for a couple of years we bought them from the boy scouts.

After Jill and Jeremy were born, we decided to try cutting down our own fresh tree. That usually made for an interesting family expedition and gave us a fresher tree that we could keep up for a longer period of time without ending up with a living room filled with fallen pine needles.. We tended to go to relatively small sellers, somebody making use of an acre or so of land to make a few extra dollars. Then we discovered a tree farm, at least a dozen miles away, that had wagon rides over the fields out to where the trees were growing. That was a great selling point -- a hayride plus a Christmas tree.

I can still remember a bitterly cold day when we went there to get our tree one year in the late 1980s. There had been a couple of days of heavy snow and then a cold front moved in. The weather was even colder than today and there was an icy wind. We cut down our tree and waited, shivering, for the wagon to make another round trip to pick us up (and our tree). Back at the parking area they had a cabin with a roaring fire in a wood stove and hot cocoa for sale. Nancy took the kids inside for warmth and a hot drink.

That left me attempting to lift this huge tree on to the roof of our huge Chevy Caprice station wagon. I had to struggle to lift it with the wind trying to tear it out of my hands... and then when I would get it onto the roof, a gust of wind would roll it right off the roof before I could get my numb fingers to lash it to the roof rack. After about the third unsuccessful attempt I happened to notice that they had a new gadget -- a tree bailer -- and a sign saying they would bail up your tree for one dollar. I quickly pulled out a buck, they wrapped the tree in plastic webbing, compacting it to less than a third of its prior width, and it was so much easier to lift it despite the wind... and I had it lashed to the roof of the car in just two or three more minutes.

Nancy and the kids came out of the cabin with a cup of hot cocoa for me. Another family drove up and parked. They got out of their car and headed straight into the cabin. We shook our heads as we drove off... they should have gone out for their tree first, leaving the heated cabin and the hot chocolate as a reward at the end because, once you were in that overheated building, there was no way that you could face a long wagon ride in that frigid air.

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