It was subtle, but an encouraging moment all the same.
I was riding up the gondola at Stratton Mountain Sunday morning, protected from the negative temperature atmosphere that howled outside the frosted windows. The reading displayed as low as minus-5 in the car on the way up earlier that morning, before the sun decided to show up for the day. My cohabitants hovering over the Vermont resort's terrain were bundled up in preparation for their first run, eyes peeking out of wrapped-up faces amidst a cloud of steamy breath.
Among those on board were a father and his two sons, each within the age range of 8-10. The boys, helmeted and suited up, shuffled their feet, shifted their poles from hand-to-hand in anticipation of the day’s activities, weather be damned. Dad was, it seemed, a little colder.
“You guys know, we’re going to have to go in after three runs or so to warm up,” he said. "Maybe grab some hot chocolate.”
One of the boys said nothing. The other, standing adjacent to me on the moving car, released a puff of haze from his lips, scoffing the mere suggestion of his parent.
“We came here to ski,” he said. “Not drink hot chocolate.”
I wanted this to be my son.
If there is such a thing as an approval rating amongst strangers on a ski lift, this kid had just hit the jackpot. No offense, Dad, but it seems we came here to ski. It’s cold. Damn cold even. Go figure, it’s January. Oh, well. Let’s roll.
Sadly, if there is also such a thing as a minority, this kid’s in it.
That’s not to say every nine-year-old kid should want to enjoy the rigors of negative wind chills, frostbitten hands, and chattering teeth. But it’s becoming clearer that, in the midst of this New England winter, well, Tom Brady isn’t the only one going soft.
We all are.
The perception of the hardened New Englander is becoming a thing of the past, as we continue to spiral downward into a society of whiny, anxious nimrods, grumbling about snow, cold, and whatever other weather comes our way that isn’t 79 degrees and sunny. This week, for the second time (maybe even third) this season, Massachusetts schools closed their doors the night before snow even made its way to the area. Not to sound like a codger, but can anyone in their mid-30’s remember this happening when they were younger? Even once?
We live in a community with fear of the Doppler, sucking up every word of what the ratings-driven forecasters have to deliver. Most of them cause panic, tossing it back to an anchor desk featuring bubbleheaded "talent" shaking their heads, saying, “Oh, not again.” How many of them grew up here, and would seem more apt to shrug their shoulders and take four inches of snow as just another winter day in the Northeast? It has to be a number so low we can count them on one hand. This is where NECN’s Tim Kelley gets the props. While his colleagues are warning against the “brutal” conditions even a light dusting can bring, the meteorologist, a Cape Cod native and an avid alpinist, is plainly giddy with anticipation for what the storm means for outdoor recreation.
Recreation for his colleagues in these times comes with a different message: “Stay indoors.”
Today’s Globe featured a story of locals complaining about the weather, weather apparently they forgot was part of the deal during winter in New England. "I feel like I'm in Minneapolis,” one woman is quoted as saying. Apparently in January 2008, she must have felt like she was spending her days on the Miami strip.
Complain, whine. Moan, grumble. It seems it is all way do these days about something nobody can control. Some of us revel in the snow, tracking its every movement and anticipating its arrival for what it means for the sports that fuel passion in our winter lives. Everyone else just carps about the weather. How will they survive until May?
We have become so feeble here in New England, and I’m not really sure who to blame. Part of it belongs with the media for getting everyone into a tizzy every time precipitation nears since it drives ratings. That, in turn, causes everyone to overreact. You name it: schools, parents, the government, they have all seemingly forgotten that you either deal with the elements or you find ways to enjoy them. You don’t have to love winter, that’s not entirely the message. But our incessant complaining and grouchy persona over its presence is embarrassing to say the least.
I can only hope in a few years that my own son is the one jumping at the foot of my bed at 5 in the morning, flighty over the foot of snow that landed overnight and begging me to take him to the mountains, no matter the elements. And while his classmates are biding their snow day off with video games, Pop Tarts, and nonstop Channel 7 weather “alerts” breaking into morning programming, he and I will have fresh tracks, laughing with our chairlift associates about the stupidity of it all.