This Is Forty

“What’s the temperature out there?” is usually the first questions I get when catching up with east coast family and friends on the phone.

“Ten below this morning… but it’s a dry cold, really not that uncomfortable,” is typically met with a snort of derision or a dismissive chuckle. “I’ll take it over a Virginia 30 any day” I insist, knowing that they’ll still mistakenly assume I’m making light of the situation, trying to put the best face on a grim reality. That’s ok, I don’t mind.

Nor do I begrudge them their misinterpretation of 40. It’s hard to explain after all how standing by the river, drenched in sun, blanketed by a bluebird sky, you can nearly overheat at 40 degrees. How do you describe the smiling at strangers on Main Street festival atmosphere; the giggling on the tailgate giddiness that accompanies these occasional January reprieves?

“Each cast that doesn’t build ice in the guides feels like I’m stealing something,” I try.

“What do you mean ice in the guides?” replies my brother.

“Well… you’ll just have to come visit.”

“Absolutely. How about the 4th of July?”

It’s all relative of course. While our small town’s Independence Day celebration is certainly worth the trip, so are the redbud and dogwood blooms that will soon be decorating the Old Dominion. You can’t win ’em all.  Life’s a series of decision. You make trade-offs, and then do your best to play the hand you hold.

Slipping a sturdy winter brown back below the surface, it’s hard to imagine trading forty degrees and slushy for anything.

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