Cheers to those who refuse to warm to winter

So, we’ve finally hit the 20s. And I don’t mean the 2020s.

I mean the -20s Celsius. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and so was a sighting of the rare, but inevitable Bare-Legged Chattering Canuck. You see at least one every winter.

The temperature dropped big time the other day, and sure enough, crossing the frigid street in front of my car was a fellow, I’d say in his early 30s, shuffling happily along in the snow, grocery bags hanging from each hand.

Tuque, parka, mitts and, yes, shorts and running shoes. On purpose.

Good for him, I thought. And then I remembered how, for me, a mild obsession to be like everybody else taught me one of the many painful lessons from the deep freeze.

Back in Grade 5 or so, all my buddies had them. Grey leather mukluks. You know, those high, soft boots with the flat soles from Eaton’s downtown. I had to have a pair too.

Trouble was, they were quite expensive, and I already had pretty good winter boots. But rubber boots were dumb, and they even had those geeky metal clasps — not radical rawhide laces like the mukluks.

So, of course, I bothered, begged and bugged Mom and Dad, even to the point of promising to shovel the walks every day, snow or no snow.

I won, of course, being a spoiled brat, and I can clearly remember climbing the humongous staircase in Eaton’s up to the shoe department with Mom. There was joy in my young heart.

I tried to wear my mukluks to bed that night, but Mom won that time. They stayed on the floor where I could see them.

The next day was -10 Fahrenheit, as it always seemed to be in those days (and everybody knows Fahrenheit is much colder than Celsius), and I rushed through my usual cocoa and toast breakfast, dug out my thick wool skating socks and ceremoniously sat on the stairs and donned my snuggly, shiny new winter boots.

Boy, they looked ace.

I gleefully burst out the door into a frozen Parkvale, running toward the footbridge to South School, where, in an unforgettable moment of triumphant popularity, I would reveal my magnificent mukluks to my admiring friends and fated future fans.

I made it just past Mrs. Gurley’s hedge next door before I went flying. The new flat-bottom boots, the snowy sidewalk, an excited kid – this all added up to an aerial cartwheel manoeuvre that would put any acrobat on the Ed Sullivan Show to shame.

After digging myself and my books out from the landing area snowbank, I shrugged and brushed myself and my mukluks off and took off again.

Boom! Down again. An impressive back flip this time.

I was nearly late for school. The mukluks were so slippery, I could barely shuffle, and I certainly couldn’t show off.

And here’s the thing: my feet were freezing. It turned out that my new mukluks and the ones all my friends were wearing — the ones that looked so rad — were, in fact, store mukluks, not real ones. And they were way worse than rubber geek boots.

But we wore them anyway. For years. Slip sliding with frozen feet. Such is the misguided power of trying to fit in.

So, kudos to the ones who don’t try to be like everyone else; to the pantless dudes out there trudging through the winter deep freeze.

And by the way, Harold the dog and yours truly will both be signing books at Chapters at noon next Saturday, Jan. 18.

A free book to the first person who shows up in shorts.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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