I spend a lot of time poking fun at my husband Joel. We have a great time together. He’s always a good sport. Don’t assume he doesn’t give as good as he gets, just because he doesn’t talk about his life on the radio every week.
But the other morning at about 6:00, on about the 379th day of ice and snow this winter, I glanced out of my upstairs window to see how bad the roads were going to be. I looked down at my car on the street below, clearly visible with our yard light reflecting off the fresh snow.
Here’s what I saw: (1) a perfectly scooped path from the front door of the house to the driver’s side of my car, (2) exhaust steaming out of the tailpipe, indicating the car was warming, (3) my retired husband, who could have easily stayed under the warm covers, using the ice scraper to clear my windshield.
I got pretty choked up. My emotional response became even more intense when I got to the car and found my favorite kind of soda in the cupholder, ready and waiting. If, when my children grow up and build relationships of their own, they find a spouse as unselfish, kind, and hardworking as the man I married, they’ll be fortunate indeed.
Now, enough of that sentimental talk. Can I just tell you we’ve had about enough of winter? A friend of mine told me recently that February is, indeed, the F month. I’m not sure whether she was referring to the grade she gives to February (she is a teacher), or other words beginning with F that aptly describe these dreadful 28 days.
Before you decide I’m referring to an inappropriate word, let me clarify that I mean words like “frigid,” “frozen,” “fatal,” “forsaken,” “fiendish,” and “foul.” How is it possible that the shortest month feels the longest?
Hibernation seems like a wonderful alternative, but human biology doesn’t allow us to go weeks without food. Heck, my biology doesn’t allow me to go even minutes without food. In winter, especially, there’s a natural desire to pack on calories. Our brains tell us that we live in a time when food is plentiful, but our instinct tells us, “If I don’t drink that cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows on top now, I may not get another chance for at least an hour.” Our instincts say, “I had better finish all of the half-empty cups of hot chocolate that the kids have left about, so they can eat off of my excess flesh in case of that famine.”
Evidently even the ancients thought February was unbearable. The name comes from some ancient Roman festival at which everyone went around washing each other. The Old English word for February was Solmonath, which actually translates as “mud month,” because even those monks and knights and serfs understood that it is a plague-ridden, flea-bitten, scourge of a time. No wonder somebody decided to shorten it to 28 days. “Let’s get this booger over with as quickly as possible,” was most likely the logic.
On the high plains, people have to drive, often long distances, to get to hot cocoa, work, recreation, or appointments. Driving on ice is one more thing that makes February an F month. Those Middle Ages people may have had to live in homes that were “harboring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale dropping, scraps of fish and other abominations not fit to be mentioned” as one medieval writer put it, but at least they did not have to skid across solid sheets of frozen ice in a 4,000-pound chunk of machinery equipped with heated leather seats, stereo surround sound, and cup holders. Those peasants never realized how easy they had it. If it had been this cold in 1400, people would have been happy to go down with the bubonic plague.
I’m going to get a fire burning in the fireplace, let my jaw thaw, and snuggle up with a few cups of hot cocoa. This is Valerie, the Little Spouse on the Prairie. Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/littlespouseontheprairie and on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera. Stay warm!