During one of my Chicago winters, we had a stretch of almost two weeks when the temperature didn't rise above five degrees. And since my school was on Lake Michigan, we were lucky; away from the lake the highs were minus five degrees. You simply got used to covering every bit of skin possible and layering on a good percentage of your total wardrobe each time you ventured outside. For that matter, you kept a good percentage of those layers on when you were inside, too -- a couple of the dorms I lived in were old buildings not overburdened with insulation or window caulk.
Then one day, as I trudged out the doors into the city-wide meat locker that had taken up residence on my campus, I felt strange. After only a half a block or so, there was an uncomfortable stuffiness about all of the layers I had on, and I found myself loosening my scarf. Not very much further on, I'd rolled my hat up from my eyebrows. And by the time I stopped at a crosswalk, I had -- avert the children's eyes, this is the kind of risky behavior we don't want them knowing about -- unzipped my coat.
Around me, I noticed similar daredeviltry. Well, we were college students, and that group is known for wearing the potential consequences of its behavior but lightly. But even the professors were walking around with their parkas open and ancient, first-generation polyester "knit" hats stuffed in their pockets.
What a wonderful day! Across campus, friendships were re-kindled as people discovered that the overstuffed red ski jacket they had walked past each day was actually someone they knew! The air was sweetened by romantic stirrings as it became possible to determine gender in the person to whom one was speaking (hair length doesn't help in that nearly as much as you'd think it would when you're on a college campus, even back in the mid-80s). The cold would return the next day and linger for another week, but it could not chill the spirit of renewal that had come onto campus. Many indeed were the students who enshrined the wonderful day of warmth in their memories, promising children yet unborn that they too would hear of this miraculous time.
The next morning I looked at the newspaper. The recorded high had been twenty-five degrees.