I grew up in Vermont. Vermont has five seasons, winter, mud, spring, summer, fall. My favorite season was winter. When I was a kid, in the 70′s & the 80′s, when Vermont had snow & I had no nerves endings to feel the cold. I remember looking at snow through the windows while I was gobbling up my turkey on Thanksgiving. I remember snow so deep, we would build tunnels to nowhere or far away lands. Sometimes to strange Caribbean blue planets (this was back when I had an imagination). In late April, early May, the snow would melt…Mud season was awful. The earth turned to black mud. Where the lawn had been, it was now replaced with squishy, gray-as-death grass. And we would find our missing toys we had left out….as in, “oh, there’s my bike!” Everyone was grumpy during mud season. Spring would come at the end of May, Summer finally arrived in August & then ended in August. Fall began in September & ended in October. November was winter again. As a child, I believed I was so lucky to live in Vermont. I never understood why my parents were grumpy all the time, except in August. I do remember my Mom always had a book covering her face, reading every minute she could find the time. In the mornings, she would stand on the one heating grate in our two hundred year old farm house, with her long flannel nightgown blowing out like a hot air balloon. With a book in her hands.
As a teen, when we would get snowed in, I would read. I liked reading ok, I had to read what the teachers made us read. But bored of TV. I discovered that I LOVED grown up books. Murder mysteries, science fiction…Fear of Flying (holy crap!!!) I read every book in the house. I read my brother’s X-men comics to the Harvard Classics. I read Dante’s inferno when I was fifteen. (Abandon all Hope ye who enter Here) I read “Atlas Shrugged” 3 times (I thought it was a love story). It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it was fiction. As an adult, I moved to Alabama. Alabama’s mud is red. That shocked me. The first time I saw it, I thought it looked like the earth itself was bleeding. About five minutes of being in Alabama, my then husband, got out of the car to pee the dog, and stepped in a bed of fire ants. Anyone know fire ants? Well, if you’ve never been bitten & you ever step on a red ant hill, you should abandon all hope ye who enter that Hell.
Alabama has two seasons, Summer & Christmas. My first January here, I heard a co-worker say, “God, I HATE winter.” It was 55 degrees & raining. I said,” this is winter?!” I missed Vermont winters, snuggled deep under covers, sleeping with socks on & putting my face in a book, not going outside until May.
Alabama was a total shock to me. I am a Democrat (I’ve requested the secret service to cover me, because I have a 2012 Obama bumper sticker on my SAAB, I’ve not heard back), heathy food eater, Jewish, Yankee. I remember the first woman I spoke to, she had a helmet of hair, her fingers were laced together, with a huge cross resting on them & she wore a flower dress from “little house on the Prairie”. She said,”Honeeeey, ya shunt drink sodas they baaad fer ya” I asked her to repeat what she said about three times before I understood what she was saying. She was being a bitch, but with a smile planted on her face the whole time. I remember walking out of that store, totally freaked out. I remember calling my mother, “MOM, the people down here are mean with a smile on their face.” My first job, friends asked me to go get some ‘veggies’ I was thinking a salad bar place. It was a MEAT & THREE. It was a cafeteria type place that hadn’t been updated since the time it was built, I’d say maybe 1940s. Grease stains on the ceiling. I looked down at the food & the ‘veggies’ looked as though they came out of a can…green beans, collard greens. Everything else was fried, fried okra, fried chicken, fried pickles. The meat was hamburger steaks, ribs, meat loaf…above all this ‘food’ was the most beautiful pie slices I’d ever seen, bar none. I had a slice of pie for lunch.
I’m still here 20 years later. I’ve discovered how the southern accent was formed. The women who settled in the south, still had to dress as they always had. Corsets are to blame for the accent. And the season of Summer. Summers are usually in the 90′s with the humidity at 100 percent. The women couldn’t breathe, they spoke between breaths & they would whine the words then either lengthened or shortened the sounds of their words. Women spoke to their children…ta da! The southern accent! Now, I don’t know if that’s truly how it began, but booooy, do iiit fiiiiit.
Alabama summers are spent inside with the lovely A/C running. Needless to say I pass my seasons with my face in a book. Last night I was reading a (brain candy) book by Stella Tillyard. The book’s title is “Tides of War.” One of the characters in the book was an avid reader, one sentence explained why I read so much. ” You never know when you might need words to put life at a bearable distance” Yup.
My Mom & I read in Vermont winters & we read in Alabama (Mom & Dad followed me here, they were done with snow) during their two seasons. Summer’s because,”Its so damn hot there is nothing left to take off except my skin & sit in my bones.” We read in Christmas, because we’re Jewish & its raining outside.
Or sometimes we need a bearable distance from our lives.