My column this week on some terrible things you're aware of...
Some Things You Know You Know
Here are some things that I know that you know about this, and other, brutal Brooklyn winters; but this one especially. Because we’re in this one right now.
First of all, you know winter doesn’t completely suck. Stop saying that. It makes you seem old. We need winter. It makes the other seasons in New York seem better than they are. And really—are you going to move to a condo in Florida with your kids? What will you do for work in Florida? Trick elderly voters? In any event, I like your fashion duck boots. J. Crew online? You’re making the best of things it seems.
You definitely know, for sure, that your kid is going to be sick on the day of his birthday party. You can feel it. Unreal. You’ve hosted five of his last nine birthdays with him barely upright and careening around on narcotic birthday adrenaline alone. You can’t cancel the party because this is Brooklyn and your house is too small to host, so you’ve booked a place that offers no refunds. See those glassy eyes the Thursday before the Saturday party at Pixel Academy? Pretend you don’t. Does he feel as warm to the touch as a microwaved corn muffin? Ignore that. Rescheduling will be a nightmare. Tylenol. Tylenol. Berry flavored Tylenol. Everything is fine.
In related news, you know that the same innocent child from your kid’s class was sent to school while still actively, fluidly sick. Again. You think that whoever keeps sending him to school with the opalescent nostril bubble must be, what you’d call, A Piece of Work. You think: The parents of this little character better comprise an internationally recognized duo of neurosurgeons with several critical operations on the schedule today. They’d better be Doctors Without Borders. They’d better be ACTUAL lifesavers, and if they were to miss a day of work, a few people would actually expire. They also better be conjoined twins because otherwise why can’t one of them come back from the tropics and take care of the kid and let the other one save the lives? Wait, what? They make organic ice cubes on their roof? Oh. I’ve seen those at the Flea!
Furthermore, you know it’s not right to have murderous feelings toward these parents, astronaut neurosurgeons or not, who keep sending the Governor of Leaky Faucets to school. And certainly not okay to have hostile feelings toward the child. What’s wrong with you?! You know that germs are good and Purell is bad. You know that this evolved logic, though, is exactly why your kid will be tubercular in time for his party on Saturday. You know you are going to have to pay it forward by dosing him with purple syrups and Ricolas in order to make said party happen. Is there any greater relief than the conclusion of one’s own child’s birthday party? Pure. Bliss.
You know very well that you should wash your kid’s puffer coat. You knew this a week ago. It’s gross. Look at the wrists. But you keep hanging it up on the hook and not washing it and putting it back on the next day. It’s just going to get dirty again, you tell yourself. You know you’re supposed to have tennis balls or those dryer hedgehogs in the dryer with down jackets but you don’t have any and the coat will come out looking like a deflated balloon, so you put it off.
Also, you know today is the day that you really need to wash the entire padded lunchbox out. The liquefied raspberries that spilled from the BPA-free container smelled fruity-sweet for the first two days, like an air freshener, but now unzipping the bag is like opening a cat’s coffin. It’s time.
You know that at school pickup your children are going to enter the polar vortex of the schoolyard with their coats flapping open and their hats, scarves, and gloves all inside their backpacks. Where they serve a dubious purpose. The pile of knits is down in the backpack, also flapping open, on the bottom, under the smelly lunch bags. And therefore the nice greeting you hoped you’d have when you first saw their sweet faces will turn into a wrestling match as you try to pluck the winter gear from their bags, your own dexterity limited by all the woolens you’re wearing, and put it on them while you freeze your middle-aged, who-needs-this-shit ass off, muttering nasty curses under your breath. Helloooo sweetie, you say, in a high pitched, barely-veiled snit. How was your day? Aren’t you kinda cold, it’s right around 12 degrees today, Lovey. Where’s your hat, sweetie? All put away? This happens every day at 3 p.m. for five months straight. You’re mad about it every time. You’re still surprised. You feel ashamed that you expect the overworked teachers to help the students put their gear on before they bring them outside. They’re busy teaching people how to read and write. They’re teaching the Four R’s! But you’re still resentful, even though that’s not fair and you know it. Even though there are 48 kids in your daughter’s second grade class and that’s a lot of mittens and mufflers and there’s a new school chancellor and who knows who has time for what anymore. Have you thought about middle school yet? I’ve heard tell of rigor. I’m too cold to worry about it right now.
You know that a lot of television gets watched in January and February. You know you shouldn’t let them watch more TV tonight, but you pretended you didn’t see them order another On Demand episode of Kickin’ It. They’re simultaneously pretending that they didn’t see you see them do it, a flagrant undermining of your credibility that would not dovetail with their goal. It’s a delicate dance. You’re all going to have to play dumb for the next 22 minutes. What else is there to do right now? Take the family curling?
You know that these weird “texting gloves” don’t work. Moreover, you know you should stop texting while people are talking to you. People such as your spouse. They have things on their mind. God, I mean, what’s happened to the American family? You know that you have no idea how to answer that because you’re texting and only heard part of the question. It’s hard to pay attention when you’re freezing and your exposed fingertip is turning black.
You know that some people in Brooklyn, and in the burbs especially, have space in their homes for nifty, galvanized metal boot bins. These go in the mudroom where the family customarily enters and deposits all of their snowy, wet shoes and grimy outerwear. In your house, you know that the rivulets of water pooling around your feet are coming from the Stonehenge-like boot pile in the kitchen, which is pretty much within sight no matter where you are in the apartment. You know you’ll have to change your Smartwools a lot because you keep wading into the rivulets.
You know that people in Brooklyn wear Important Winter Hats. You know that your winter hats are too important and big when you can’t hear oncoming traffic and your neck strains under their weight. Mine are so cumbersome, they have their own chair. I think things have gone too far. Here they are, at rest.
You know that this will pass, the whole polar vortex and the winter of 2014 that brought it here. You know you are incredibly fortunate to have a home and enough heat and comfort for your family. You know you should remind your kids often, just as they enter your house and experience relief from the warm air blasting them, about all the people without such luxuries. And you know, even when you’re engrossed in all your own stuff, that you should be doing a lot more than talking about it.
As you power through the rest of this New York winter—sledding in the park, ice skating in the new rinks, drinking gratuitous amounts of hot cocoa, enjoying a cold weather Superbowl this Sunday (is it sadistic that I’m praying for sideways snow at the game?)—remember that Spring will arrive in just 48 days. Spring in our fair Brooklyn! Yes, it will be brief, muddy and wet, but you won’t have to festoon yourself with layers anymore, and it will be a good few months before the heat waves and rancid streetscape aromas come to assault us. Plus, sandals are much prettier than duck boots. Even your fashion duck boots.
This column first appeared on the South Brooklyn Post on January 30, 2014.