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December 22, 2012

Vos: The winter of my acclimation

Maybe it has something to do with asserting independence. When my parents became serious snowbirds and left their central Minnesota home to head South for much of the year in the late ’80s, I was the bird that flew from my warmer habitat in the Pacific Northwest back to Minnesota.

My flight of frozen foolhardiness.

My return to the Midwest from a nearly three-year adventure in Oregon was like a cold, mean slap in the face — and the fingers, and toes and eye sockets.

It was 1987, and although I don’t have scientific proof that this was one of the coldest, nastiest winters, I can tell you my body and my 1978 Datsun B210 (Meryl The Chocolate Pearl) can testify that this was a winter initiation worthy of criminal prosecution.

The Chocolate Pearl and I had moved to Owatonna to take a job at The People’s Press in December. I found a cozy rental that was actually a converted garage — that burnt-orange shag fooled me into thinking warm, plush comfort when it actually meant an eighth inch of rug remnant between my feet and cold concrete floor. The heater was conveniently a big electric wall unit that exuded intense warmth if you stood 6 inches from it while dressing, eating, reading and flossing.

I didn’t think my not-so comfortable home was an issue though, because I was spending most my time at work anyway. And I decided I would walk the eight blocks to the office every day. Even when it nearly killed me.

One morning in late December, I had to be in to work extra early so I set off in the pre-sunrise darkness bundled up in a full-length down coat that made me look like a walking sleeping bag. Despite boots, a neckwarmer, hat and down mittens, I was so cold when I finally arrived that I went into the restroom for 15 minutes where my body parts slowly thawed. My eyeballs were so cold they melted like I’d just watched the ending of “The Champ.”

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