Cold as a Witch’s Titty

So my daughter used to say with a naughty smirk on her face. She was probably 8th grade, that age when children all of a sudden become aware of what makes adults laugh and then think better of it. Witches’ titties: saggy and withered, can put a ruinous spell on you if they win the duel with winter sun.  

Sitting  in my second-floor study, feet in double socks stuck between the tines of an old-fashioned radiator, I’m spooning soup into my houth. Sun is pouring in, tirmomg the flat Christmas cactus translucent. Julia the cat enters. Orca black and white and sleek as a whale, this most pliant of cats is willing to stare with me across the backyard frozen waste, where bird feeders stand guard against the cold. Have all the birds frozen? Then we spy them, high in the white pine, chickadees and finches basking in sun, before darting down for a seed.

The last time it was this cold was 2007. My first winter in Minnesota, I wore my New York style, knee-high leather boots with silk linings. Smart enough for 5th Avenue, but dumb for standing an hour watching dog races in St. Paul. My feet turned cold, then numb, then brickish. Warmed in tepid water at home, they emerged glistening red, puffy, throbbing and painful. I was horrified. Frostbite, said the doctor. Buy mukluks with thick soles and padding and wear double socks. Hello Minnesota, goodbye wimpy New York.

Now I  know how to dress for our fancy dress winter ball. I can cavort with wind-chill and glide gracefully across icy intersections. “I wouldn’t recognize you two,” say I to yoga pals as they gear up to hit the street,  caps down to their eyes, scarves up to their noses. I, on the othr hand, wear a full-length red down coat,  making me look like a cross between a extremely large hot dog and a bowling ball.

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