The Big Chill

It's coming, 'Burghers. The long, cold, long, harsh, long, bitter, long, dark Winter. We capitalize that word because we have respect for the power of that word. Winter.

Much as the Parkway East rush "hour" seems to run from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m., Winter in Pittsburgh seems to run from late-October to mid-May, when we might find ourselves dusting snowflakes off the newly planted petunias, muttering, "Maybe I should move to Georgia. No, Florida. No, ARIZONA."

My mother – God love her and bless her and all that jazz – my goodness, does she hate Winter. It starts in October with a softly shivered "brrrr" as the first cool winds hit her face, and it continues on into late March with a double-fisted, window-banging "Why, God? WHY?!" as she watches a foot of snow fall defiantly. Her rants finally end in early April when she heads to Texas to wait out Winter's last-ditch effort to make her life a living, frozen hell.

So you can imagine how annoyed she gets with me when I show up at her house after a particularly brutal snowstorm with a smile on my frozen face, snow on my boots and an "Isn't this weather great?!" on my lips.

Yes, Winter is coming, and it's long and you can survive with your Pittsburgh love intact. Here's how:

1. Realize it could be a whole lot worse. Forget the Mayans and their 2012 doomsday predictions. The real terror happened almost 100 years ago. Please, 'Burghers, note this New York Times headline from 1918: "Monster Ice Gorge Menaces Pittsburgh: Avalanche of Packed Ice, Nine Miles Long, Is Moving Down Upon City." Nine miles long. A veritable Titanic-sinking iceberg 9 miles long just floating on down the river, stopping only to destroy barges, docks and livelihoods. I know what you're thinking, and I just want you to know I agree – Thank God for global warming. Dear Al Gore, I'm just kidding. You should loosen up a little bit.

2. Be glad you're not [fill in the blank with the name of a poor TV reporter forced to stand in the cold snow at 11:15 p.m. to tell viewers at home about snow and how much snow we might get and look, there's a snowflake now, and in Pittsburgh of all places.] As he or she reports, "There's another snowflake and I'm going to talk to the city employee in charge of salt here in a minute, and he's going to tell me that we should remain calm and that the city does have enough salt, bread, milk and toilet paper, and look, another flake, and also, if I'm really lucky, maybe I can get a shot of me talking while sitting in the passenger side of a salt truck, or even better, me DRIVING the salt truck, or even BEST, me holding my gloved hand under a stream of salt as it pours from the truck and oh, God, I hate my job."

3. Go sled riding. I don't care if you are 8 or 80. OK, maybe not 80. I don't want you to sue me if you break a hip, but, healthy 'Burghers, the cure for the Winter blues is a solid hour or two spent zipping down a snow-covered hill on any sled you can find, whether it be a cafeteria tray (it works; trust me), a toboggan or even one of those death-saucers that you can't steer and that suck you into a spin so violent an astronaut would vomit. I sled-ride every single year with the family kids because it's exhilarating, it's good exercise and it's totally fun to watch little kids the first time they take a saucer down the hill and spin their screaming, terrified selves right into a bush. Dear overprotective mothers, I'm just kidding. But you should loosen up a little bit.

4. Enjoy your city. Don't throw snowballs or icicles at me, but I love Winter in Pittsburgh. I love wearing scarves and my heavy coat and boots. I love watching Winter hockey and Winter football and going ice skating at the rink at PPG Place. I love the Christmas windows in downtown Macy's and the festive music they pipe out onto the streets that mingles perfectly with the sound of ringing bells. I love the seasonal flavors and the first warm rush of air as you step out of the cold and into your favorite local coffee shop. Put your snow boots on and hit the town. Pittsburgh is meant to be enjoyed in the Winter, not scorned angrily with a shaking fist directed at its gray, snow-spewing skies. At least not until late May when, yeah, Arizona is looking really good. No, the Equator. No, THE SUN.

Categories: PittGirl