From the Caribbean to Chicago on Christmas Eve (Winter Memories)

Like the Christmas Postcard

Photo by Petr Kratochvil
Photo by Petr Kratochvil | Source

I have forgiven him, but I can never forget him. Actually, I have learned to like him, but I prefer that we never touch. I still remember how he, Old Man Winter, treated me the first time we met.

That was Christmas Eve, 1978. It was 84° Fahrenheit (29° Celsius) in the Caribbean. I flew away from the warmth of the sunshine knowing hardly anything about the mood of the Man I was going to meet.

I stopped in Miami to register my immigrant arrival, and continued on to Chicago where I was scheduled to change planes for a short flight to a suburban city in Michigan. But Old Man Winter intercepted. He held me captive in the second-worst snowy December Chicago has ever seen, with temperatures below zero.

The Seduction

First, he seduced me. Looking through the airplane window on our descent into Chicago O’Hare, I allowed myself to be mesmerized by the mysterious, shiny-white glitter framing everything below. I had seen it on Christmas postcards making beautiful structures look still more beautiful, and seeing it real for the first time was exhilarating.

I was anxious to get closer and begin mingling. In my excitement, I forgot the Caribbean saying that "See me and come live with me have two different meanings."

Old Man Winter held me captive in the second-worst snowy December Chicago has ever seen.

The Baby and the Blanket

We landed at O'Hare and I found the gate where I expected to board for the last leg of my journey. The airline agent informed me that there would be no more flights in or out of the airport for the rest of the day. I would have panicked less had I been alone, but I had my three-month old baby with me.

During the past six hours of flying, she had been as pleasant and cooperative as could be expected. I’d share with her the joy of experiencing our first American Christmas (her first Christmas ever), and she would smile in agreement with me. She looked happy in my protection, and I thanked God that she seemed to have my easy-going attitude. Now her food was running out, and she would rather starve than breastfeed. Nervously, I tightened the blanket around her.

Oh the blanket! You would have laughed, if you had seen what I thought was a thick baby blanket (emphasis on thick). Bear in mind that when the temperature drops to 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) in the Caribbean, folks bring out their sweaters and blankets. I learned later, by comparison with authentic winter items, there are no thick sweaters or blankets in the Caribbean.

The Wait

Not knowing how long it would be before our 40-minute flight, I made myself comfortable, close to a public telephone. It took me some time to understand the operator’s speech. Yes, Caribbean people have problems with other people’s dialect, too. Eventually, my collect call got through and my relatives informed me that they would drive to Chicago O'Hare to pick up my baby and me.

Meanwhile, passengers in delay walked around canvassing individuals going in the same direction to carpool. Someone approached me, telling me that if I wanted in, I only had to contribute toward the car rental, and be prepared to help drive the 96 miles to our destination. Me? Driving on snow I had never seen or touched? I remembered the Caribbean calypso:

“The only time I see snow is when I buy snow cone down de street.”

Lucky for all of us that my ride was already confirmed. All my attention now turned toward my baby, trying to keep her comfortable. We cuddle and talked. She slept, she woke, she smiled and slept again. After what seemed like an eternity, my two relatives showed up. We hugged, then they dressed us in the winter coats they had brought.

“You have no idea what it means to be cold. Do you hear me? Understand that this is the first time you really will be cold.” My cousin sounded serious.

The Meeting

Photo by John Larkin
Photo by John Larkin | Source

My cousin’s warning was appropriate. Old Man Winter grabbed me and wrapped me in his frozen bosom. He stung me, scorched and iced me all at once (a feeble attempt to describe the inhuman sensation). Even inside the car, it was colder than I thought possible.

I hardly remember anything else until we arrived at our destination. We were all sleepy. Our trip which began on Christmas Eve ended during the early hours of Christmas morning. When I awoke, I was anxious to see winter by daylight.

Call me by any name you choose, but I thought that the wonderful view of silvery white snow on the branches, plus the cone-shaped icy heaps on the ground compensated for the horrendous hug I received the night before. It was love at first daylight sight.

Fast Forward

Snow in the moonlight, is one of my favorite winter views.  Photo by Mark Coldren
Snow in the moonlight, is one of my favorite winter views. Photo by Mark Coldren | Source

Old Man Winter and I have spent 35 Christmases together. I seldom think about our Chicago meeting. I have grown to like the combination of Christmas and cold temperatures. In my opinion, the biting cold is worth the uniquely glorious, uncontrollable images crafted by the snow.

This Christmas in the Caribbean, I will miss the splendor of snow and winter. I will miss the playful shapes of icicles hanging from the rooftops and the trees. I will sing with nostalgia the carol that mentions "chestnuts roasting on an open fire." I will actually long for my favorite winter views of heaping snow on a dark road, on a moonlight night.

Sure, I love winter and always will—especially from a distance.

© 2014 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 64 comments

ArtDiva profile image

ArtDiva 23 months ago from Yountville, CA

What a captivating introduction. Meetings with Old Man Winter, frozen images "crafted by the snow," warmed by the memory. Happy Holidays to you and yours!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

I loved this Dora and just clicked every one of your buttons! I am sure there will not be another like this! That is what is so much fun about these memories!!

Going now and putting you at the top of the list just as soon as I share it!!!!!


word55 profile image

word55 23 months ago from Chicago

Hello MsDora, as usual, I enjoyed your article here. Of course, being in Chicago, I've experienced every winter, even the one you came in. I've gotten used to them whether freezing, cold or mild. I'm glad that you saw your visit as a very good one. I'm sure you enjoyed that Christmas day in Michigan as well because it had more plains, trees and forests of beauty. Fortunately, we haven't had enough snow to talk whoo or about. When we do, I'll send you a couple of pics. So far, our winter has been very pleasant. There's no snow and traffic is allowing for excessive Christmas shopping, going to and fro. Thank you for this marvelous hub. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year coming. God bless!


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 23 months ago from Chicago Area

Sorry that a visit here to Chi-town had to be during the blizzard of '78-'79. As a Chicago native, I was also here for the '67 blizzard that was the absolute worst on record. Yep, it can be brutal here. But I agree that the winters here can be beautiful. Hope you come back to enjoy the fall (which is THE best) here. Happy Warm Wishes for the Holidays!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 23 months ago from Queensland Australia

Love this MsDora. I think I would act the same way if I ever experienced my first snow and Old Man Winter. I can't imagine how cold it must be. Thank you for sharing those memories of Winter.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Margaret, thank you very much for your encouraging comment. Merry Christmas to you also and to your household.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks for the invitation, Jackie. It is your challenge that brought this memory to mind. You sent the Muse. Merry Christmas to you and yours!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Word, if I'd known you then, I might have called on you for rescue. However, all's well that ends well. Thanks for the promise of pictures.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Heidi, thanks for the invitation. So hospitable of you. I've been back once for a woman's retreat and it was in the fall. God willing, I would like to come back just to enjoy Chicago.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jodah, you'd be in for a treat. The sting doesn't last. I say, bear it and then be compensated by the beautiful views. Merry Christmas to you and yours!


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England

Great account of your first cold Christmas! It's true that the cold can burn as well, isn't it? Also when you freeze and then you thaw out it aches like crazy, especially the ears! I'm terrible for not wearing a hat.

This was thoroughly entertaining and I liked your focus on the baby.

Lovely!

Hope you enjoy your warmer Christmas this year. Have a great time!

Ann


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Ann, it's hardly to describe the sensation accurately, but I think burning's in there. Glad you like it and Merry Christmas to you, too.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

This is easily my favorite of your writings. The personification of Old Man Winter is excellent; the introduction is exquisite. Oh my, this is so good,

Dora! A job well done, my friend.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 23 months ago from southern USA

I could feel Old Man Winter chilling me to the bone just reading your descriptive words. I loved reading about your adventure that year with your precious baby. Thank you for sharing and I felt as though I was right there with you!

We have had a few rare snow and ice storms here in the Deep South but, thankfully, they only last no more than three days at the most. I love the beauty of the snow but do not like traveling in icy weather. I can only take about three days at the most, so it is good I do live in the Deep South.

I am so glad you participated in Jackie's Winter Memories Challenge!

Up +++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Merry Christmas and many blessings for the New Year


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, I'm so excited at your feedback. Thanks a million for your encouragement.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Faith, I actually considered "The Beauty of Snow" as my title. I celebrate its beauty with you, and I also do not like driving on it. One of my biggest joys at my retirement was not having to drive to work on the snow. Thanks so much for your comment. Merry Christmas to you and yours also, and much joy and prosperity in the New Year.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 23 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

Great job, MsDora. I was absorbed reading, and actually chuckled a time or two. And I can definitely identify with your attitude toward snow. I love it - when it's outside and I'm inside looking at it through the window.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 23 months ago from Pacific Northwest

Wonderful story. I too love the Old man winter. Especially your opening. What a shocker you went through.

I grew up in Southern California from age 11 on. But my beginnings were in the state of Washington. I hated 80 degree Christmases. My mom lived at a place called Salton Sea - a desert community by a massive lake called Salton Sea. Every Christmas Santa would water ski in a red wet suit that looked vaguely like a Santa suit, and had a beard and red and white hat. When he got to the shore he joined his elves and they distributed treats to the children. No lap sitting, he was too wet. I thought is was lame but my kids loved it. We moved back north in '90 and thought it doesn't always snow on Christmas, it is at least cold.

Merry Christmas Dora.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

Billy said he would write one too; we may have to keep him at his word, huh? I mean in case he tries to change his mind. I think it is great though; I'd love to hear everyone's story, wouldn't you?

I'd have been quite terrified with a 3 month old baby though; I can tell you. I caught a school bus in snow for many years so I remember that "burn"!


truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 23 months ago from New Orleans, LA

Hope you have a Christmas in the warm weather. I have always lived in the South. People turn on the high heat when it gets to 50. The snow seems so beautiful and romantic. One year I spent Christmas in China and it was a wet, slushy, dirty show everywhere. All I did was slip and slide all over the place - not as romantic as I thought it would be!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Ron, you fully understand me. I enjoyed the snow with a closed door between us. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas to you!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Lori, it's good that we can recall the memories even when we are not in the snow. We can also look at pictures from other cities. Thanks for your input. Merry Christmas!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jackie, I don't think I'd do it now, and certainly not with a baby. I was really not aware of what I was getting into. Looking forward to Bill's story--and all the others. Thanks for issuing the challenge; I'm glad I participated.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Truth, I hope there were other things about China that you liked, and I hope you get another opportunity to enjoy snow in winter. Thanks for weighing in and Happy Christmas to you!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 23 months ago from Shelton

what a wondeful memory.. Im glad you took the challenge and shared the suspense.. the past.. the present... voted wonderfully up!!!!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 23 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

MsDora, a beautiful and captivating read. I thoroughly enjoyed your story, exceptional from beginning to end. That was some introduction to you new home... I'm so glad you were able to reconcile with 'Old man Winter.' Have a wonderful Christmas in the sun, and the very best for 2015.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, I'm glad too. Pleased that you enjoyed my story. Merry Christmas to you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jo, thanks for your beautiful comment. I like your view--reconciling with winter. Yes, I have. Merry Christmas to you, too.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 23 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

What a great writer you are Dora. You captured me in the first line and had me mesmerized until the end. I did not want the story to end but was happy and warm at the end.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 23 months ago from Central Florida

Dora, you told this story beautiful. I love the opening!

I've lived in Florida since 1976. I don't miss the snow or the cold at all. It's pretty to look at, but I don't like being cold. I know what you mean about getting the sweaters out when the temp dips to 70! It actually gets down to the 30s and 40s here sometimes. That's way too cold for me!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, thanks for always being so sweet. Pleased that you like my story.


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 23 months ago from USA

It can get really cold in some parts of the US. This must have been quite an experience the first time you saw snow and felt chilled to the bone. Fortunately, your baby traveled well.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Shauna, glad you're comfortable in Florida, but if you like a challenge, one winter (or part of a winter) might be worth a try. Thanks for your contribution.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Ologsinquito, I didn't know what I was getting into, but thank God like you observed, my baby endured. Thanks for your comment.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 23 months ago from Central Florida

Dora, I moved here from New Jersey. I'm all too familiar with the cold. I don't remember it bothering me as much then, but I sure don't like it now!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Shauna, I hope I didn't sound too pushy. You really learned all you need to know about winter in New Jersey. Thanks for straightening that out. Let's enjoy our Florida/Caribbean winter.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very interesting hub, Dora. The idea of facing a snowstorm with a tiny baby is frightening! I'm glad your relatives came to meet you. Snow and ice are beautiful, but I don't like some of their effects!


m abdullah javed profile image

m abdullah javed 23 months ago

I was in my past along with your narration. It was a chilled experience of meeting with your heart throb, the old man winter. The memoiers speak of your passion and faith both in the festival and its season, for you even the coldest of the season brought you the warmth of happiness and prosperity. Thanks for sharing your very personal feelings. Wishing you and your near and dear ones a very happy Christmas, may you witness more such happiest occasions.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Alicia, I am more frightened now, after the fact. I was naïve then. I share your opinion about the beauty of snow and ice and their effects. Merry Christmas!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Muhammad, much happiness to you too, and into 2015! Thanks for your kind comment.


Joyfulcrown profile image

Joyfulcrown 23 months ago

MsDora I loved this. I am not a fan of winter. I am originally from the Philippines but thankful I moved to Southern California. I've only seen snow 2 to 3 times in my life.


m abdullah javed profile image

m abdullah javed 23 months ago

Thank you so much. Wishing you the same.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Joyful, you've done well and I'd say that's a good number of times. You don't have to live in it to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Muhammad, you're very welcome!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 23 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

I feel for you! Although I have always lived where winter and Christmas go hand in hand, I sometimes wonder what I would do if I lived in a place where they did not. Your description of "old man winter" certainly fits well!


MelRootsNWrites profile image

MelRootsNWrites 23 months ago from California

MsDora, I really enjoyed your winter memory. I could relate as I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area where our coldest temperatures come from fog. I remember going up to the Sierra Nevadas when it was snowing. We brought our winter clothes--completely useless when it's 15 degree in the morning. We think it's cold when it's 60. LOL


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Denise, thanks. It is great for you that have the picturesque winters, and after the while, the cold doesn't feel so bad. Thanks for your comment and have a great cold Christmas!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks Mel for relating to my really-not-winter attire. If it doesn't snow, there's a good chance that there's a different kind of winter. Thanks for sharing.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 23 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I don't remember that particular winter but I have lived in Minnesota,Illinois and Wisconsin most of my life so I know that kind of weather. I would prefer to live where it is warmer but my wife does not like "hot and humid." But, as they say, you don't have to shovel heat and humidity. sharing


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Don, that's a good one about shoveling heat. I've done my share of shoveling snow and I don't really care for it. Happy wife, happy life--the saying goes. Merry Christmas to you, both.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

This is beautifully written, Dora. I do understand the enjoying snow from afar. I spent a number of winters up in Maine and northern Ohio and now I've thawed out down South where I belong.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Flourish, you probably have had enough winter enjoyment to last you for a long while. Thanks for sharing.


mary615 profile image

mary615 23 months ago from Florida

I can't imagine traveling with a three month old baby to cold country! I've never been to Chicago, and I'd never go during the Winter, either. I do not like the cold! I grew up cold, and now live in sunny Florida where I enjoy going to the beach during the Winter.

I enjoyed reading about your trip.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 23 months ago

You had me at the beginning with your introduction. It was a great story and I loved how you described the best of winter. I love the sunny state we live in but I do miss the lovely blankets of snow up north. Everything looks so magical when covered with snow.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks Mary. Like my cousin said, I had no idea what cold really felt like. I'd never do that again. Thanks for your input and enjoy your Florida beach in the winter.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Teaches, glad you like my story. Don't know if I used the word "magical". If id didn't, I should have. It is so appropriate for snow.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 23 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Your captivating story reminded me of my winters in Holland before I turned twenty one. I traveled in a train with a six month old baby on New Years day toward Shiphol airport in a freezing snowstorm. Hours later I found myself walking into Sydney airport in a sweltering heatwave.


DDE profile image

DDE 23 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Hi MsDora I was taken in from the beginning to the end. You had me reading on. We are currently experiencing the coldest winter in Croatia. Happy New year to you and family!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Nadine, you've seen it all within hours and lived to tell about it. Thanks for sharing your winter phenomenon.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Devika, thanks for your feedback. Please keep warm so you can have some memories to share. The best to you and your family also in 2015.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 11 months ago from the short journey

What a great read for the Christmas season! I laughed out loud and at your cousin's warning, and I was very relieved that your baby was safe, as well as yourself! Very heartwarming and lovely and delightful and satisfying! A beautifully done account of your history with winter. Merry Christmas to you and yours!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 11 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Merry Christmas to you too,RTalloni. This was an adventure and we are grateful that we survived. The baby is now an adult and quite accustomed to the snow. Thanks for your input.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 11 months ago from Brazil

This was lovely. Although I grew up in California, my mother was from Chicago. She would tell us how it was so cold her ankles would bleed, yet she loved so much about the town and her life there. She and her cousin use to push the snow off the porch to try and get a tan in the middle of winter.

Although she loved the heat of California, there was always a longing for the time she spent in the snow there.

That is an amazing photo of those icicles under the eves of the house.

Although I can appreciate the snow, I prefer not to be in it. We will be spending our Christmas in the warmth of Brazil.

Merry Christmas to you and best wishes for the new year.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 11 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Merry Christmas to you, too, Blond Logic. I see that we both appreciate winter from a distance. Enjoy Brazil!

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    Dora Isaac Weithers (MsDora)946 Followers
    257 Articles

    For MsDora --teacher,counselor, mother and grandmother-- holidays and family make the perfect blend for good times and pleasant memories.



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