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Christmas Eve Travel From the Caribbean to Chicago (Winter Memories)

For Ms. Dora—teacher, counselor, mother, and grandmother—holidays and family make the perfect blend of good times and pleasant memories.

I have forgiven him, but I can never forget him. Actually, I have learned to like him, but I prefer that we never touch. I still remember how he, Old Man Winter, treated me the first time we met.

That was Christmas Eve, 1978. It was 84° Fahrenheit (29° Celsius) in the Caribbean. I flew away from the warmth of the sunshine knowing hardly anything about the mood of the Man I was going to meet.

From Sunshine to Snow

Photo by John Larkin

Photo by John Larkin

Having registered my immigrant arrival in Miami, I continued on to Chicago where I was scheduled to change planes for a short flight to a suburban city in Michigan. But Old Man Winter intercepted. He held me captive in the second-worst snowy December Chicago has ever seen, with temperatures below zero.

The Seduction

First, he seduced me. Looking through the airplane window on our descent into Chicago O’Hare, I allowed myself to be mesmerized by the mysterious, shiny-white glitter framing everything below. I had seen it on Christmas postcards making beautiful structures look still more beautiful, and seeing it real for the first time was exhilarating.

I was anxious to get closer and begin mingling. In my excitement, I forgot the Caribbean saying that "See me and come live with me have two different meanings."

Like the Christmas Postcardmore beautiful.

Like the Christmas Postcardmore beautiful.

The Baby and the Blanket

We landed at O'Hare and I found the gate where I expected to board for the last leg of my journey. The airline agent informed me that there would be no more flights in or out of the airport for the rest of the day. I would have panicked less had I been alone, but I had my three-month old baby with me.

During the past six hours of flying, she had been as pleasant and cooperative as could be expected. I’d share with her the joy of experiencing our first American Christmas (her first Christmas ever), and she would smile in agreement with me. She looked happy in my protection, and I thanked God that she seemed to have my easy-going attitude. Now her food was running out, and she would rather starve than breastfeed. Nervously, I tightened the blanket around her.

Oh the blanket! You would have laughed, if you had seen what I thought was a thick baby blanket (emphasis on thick). Bear in mind that when the temperature drops to 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) in the Caribbean, folks bring out their sweaters and blankets. I learned later, by comparison with authentic winter items, there are no thick sweaters or blankets in the Caribbean.

The Wait

Not knowing how long it would be before our 40-minute flight, I made myself comfortable, close to a public telephone. It took me some time to understand the operator’s speech. Yes, Caribbean people have problems with other people’s dialect, too. Eventually, my collect call got through and my relatives informed me that they would drive to Chicago O'Hare to pick up my baby and me.

Meanwhile, passengers in delay walked around canvassing individuals going in the same direction to carpool. Someone approached me, telling me that if I wanted in, I only had to contribute toward the car rental, and be prepared to help drive the 96 miles to our destination. Me? Driving on snow I had never seen or touched? I remembered the Caribbean calypso:

“The only time I see snow is when I buy snow cone down de street.”

Lucky for all of us that my ride was already confirmed. All my attention now turned toward my baby, trying to keep her comfortable. We cuddle and talked. She slept, she woke, she smiled and slept again. After what seemed like an eternity, my two relatives showed up. We hugged, then they dressed us in the winter coats they had brought.

“You have no idea what it means to be cold. Do you hear me? Understand that this is the first time you really will be cold.” My cousin sounded serious.

My cousin’s warning was appropriate. Old Man Winter grabbed me and wrapped me in his frozen bosom. He stung me, scorched and iced me all at once (a feeble attempt to describe the inhuman sensation). Even inside the car, it was colder than I thought possible.

I hardly remember anything else until we arrived at our destination. We were all sleepy. Our trip which began on Christmas Eve ended during the early hours of Christmas morning. When I awoke, I was anxious to see winter by daylight.

Call me by any name you choose, but I thought that the wonderful view of silvery white snow on the branches, plus the cone-shaped icy heaps on the ground compensated for the horrendous hug I received the night before. It was love at first daylight sight.

Fast Forward

Snow in the moonlight, is one of my favorite winter views.

Snow in the moonlight, is one of my favorite winter views.

Old Man Winter and I have spent 35 Christmases together. I seldom think about our Chicago meeting. I have grown to like the combination of Christmas and cold temperatures. In my opinion, the biting cold is worth the uniquely glorious, uncontrollable images crafted by the snow.

This Christmas in the Caribbean, I will miss the splendor of snow and winter. I will miss the playful shapes of icicles hanging from the rooftops and the trees. I will sing with nostalgia the carol that mentions "chestnuts roasting on an open fire." I will actually long for my favorite winter views of heaping snow on a dark road, on a moonlight night.

Sure, I love winter and always will—especially from a distance.

© 2014 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 04, 2019:

Thank you, Marie. I love your very last sentence. So true! At least, you have some experience with Old Man, and I hope that he would be kind to you.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 04, 2019:

I loved this personal narrative and wouldn't change a word. I am back courting Old Man Winter myself after six years of Florida living. Life's pathways are unpredictable at times; the unexpected makes life interesting and keeps us on our toes.

Blessings!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 19, 2018:

H Lax, thanks for affirming my story and for sharing your childhood adventures in the snow. Amazing indeed! I lived in Michigan for a few years and also hated driving on snow, but truth is, nothing compares to the beautiful images of snow. Wish we could just fly over it!

H Lax on December 19, 2018:

As a native Chicagoan I remember those days in 78. I was fourteen and it was one of our biggest snowstorms. I'm sure there was much joy at school being called off. I remember my brothers building a snowman that came up to the center of our front window. It must have been 15 feet tall. My friends, siblings, and I stayed out in the cold and snow for hours with socks for gloves. We would grab onto the bumper of a car and let it pull us through the streets. It's amazing we survived all our little antics. I also love the look of it all especially naked trees covered only in snow (love your pic). Now, I can't walk out the door in the cold. It takes my breath away and not in the same way it does from the inside looking out. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm glad you made it to michigan safely. I'm so paranoid to be in a car when it snows.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 09, 2018:

Thanks, Nell. I think the better thing would be traveling whenever we want to the place with the temperatures we like. Since we may not be able to afford that, we have to make do whatever we have. I am still waiting for the opportunity to visit England.

Nell Rose from England on December 08, 2018:

Snow is so lovely. Even over here when we get it for a little while we all ooh and aah every single time it happens! lol! Trouble is we don't tend to get a lot, not like America. I will swop you for the Caribbean! lol!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 06, 2018:

Tim, thanks for relating to my winter experience and also for making such kind comments. I do not crave doing it again, but I love the memory.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on December 05, 2018:

Hello, Ms. Dora,

This was a very wonderful article. I've been to Chicago in the winter, and it's a totally different cold - it bites into your bones and have you for supper. I spent a Christmas there with my sister and I couldn't wait to see N.C. and the south again.

I love the descriptions, and you wrote this so well - I wanted to reach through time, bringing the whole HP gang - and get you and your baby to the safety of your family.

Beautiful story, but Old Man Winter can keep his cold.

Much respect and admiration,

Tim

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 19, 2015:

Merry Christmas to you, too, Blond Logic. I see that we both appreciate winter from a distance. Enjoy Brazil!

Mary Wickison from Brazil on December 19, 2015:

This was lovely. Although I grew up in California, my mother was from Chicago. She would tell us how it was so cold her ankles would bleed, yet she loved so much about the town and her life there. She and her cousin use to push the snow off the porch to try and get a tan in the middle of winter.

Although she loved the heat of California, there was always a longing for the time she spent in the snow there.

That is an amazing photo of those icicles under the eves of the house.

Although I can appreciate the snow, I prefer not to be in it. We will be spending our Christmas in the warmth of Brazil.

Merry Christmas to you and best wishes for the new year.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 17, 2015:

Merry Christmas to you too,RTalloni. This was an adventure and we are grateful that we survived. The baby is now an adult and quite accustomed to the snow. Thanks for your input.

RTalloni on December 17, 2015:

What a great read for the Christmas season! I laughed out loud and at your cousin's warning, and I was very relieved that your baby was safe, as well as yourself! Very heartwarming and lovely and delightful and satisfying! A beautifully done account of your history with winter. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 30, 2014:

Devika, thanks for your feedback. Please keep warm so you can have some memories to share. The best to you and your family also in 2015.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 30, 2014:

Nadine, you've seen it all within hours and lived to tell about it. Thanks for sharing your winter phenomenon.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 30, 2014:

Hi MsDora I was taken in from the beginning to the end. You had me reading on. We are currently experiencing the coldest winter in Croatia. Happy New year to you and family!

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on December 30, 2014:

Your captivating story reminded me of my winters in Holland before I turned twenty one. I traveled in a train with a six month old baby on New Years day toward Shiphol airport in a freezing snowstorm. Hours later I found myself walking into Sydney airport in a sweltering heatwave.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 28, 2014:

Teaches, glad you like my story. Don't know if I used the word "magical". If id didn't, I should have. It is so appropriate for snow.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 28, 2014:

Thanks Mary. Like my cousin said, I had no idea what cold really felt like. I'd never do that again. Thanks for your input and enjoy your Florida beach in the winter.

Dianna Mendez on December 27, 2014:

You had me at the beginning with your introduction. It was a great story and I loved how you described the best of winter. I love the sunny state we live in but I do miss the lovely blankets of snow up north. Everything looks so magical when covered with snow.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 27, 2014:

I can't imagine traveling with a three month old baby to cold country! I've never been to Chicago, and I'd never go during the Winter, either. I do not like the cold! I grew up cold, and now live in sunny Florida where I enjoy going to the beach during the Winter.

I enjoyed reading about your trip.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 27, 2014:

Flourish, you probably have had enough winter enjoyment to last you for a long while. Thanks for sharing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 26, 2014:

This is beautifully written, Dora. I do understand the enjoying snow from afar. I spent a number of winters up in Maine and northern Ohio and now I've thawed out down South where I belong.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 23, 2014:

Don, that's a good one about shoveling heat. I've done my share of shoveling snow and I don't really care for it. Happy wife, happy life--the saying goes. Merry Christmas to you, both.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on December 23, 2014:

I don't remember that particular winter but I have lived in Minnesota,Illinois and Wisconsin most of my life so I know that kind of weather. I would prefer to live where it is warmer but my wife does not like "hot and humid." But, as they say, you don't have to shovel heat and humidity. sharing

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 23, 2014:

Thanks Mel for relating to my really-not-winter attire. If it doesn't snow, there's a good chance that there's a different kind of winter. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 23, 2014:

Denise, thanks. It is great for you that have the picturesque winters, and after the while, the cold doesn't feel so bad. Thanks for your comment and have a great cold Christmas!

Melody Lassalle from California on December 22, 2014:

MsDora, I really enjoyed your winter memory. I could relate as I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area where our coldest temperatures come from fog. I remember going up to the Sierra Nevadas when it was snowing. We brought our winter clothes--completely useless when it's 15 degree in the morning. We think it's cold when it's 60. LOL

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 22, 2014:

I feel for you! Although I have always lived where winter and Christmas go hand in hand, I sometimes wonder what I would do if I lived in a place where they did not. Your description of "old man winter" certainly fits well!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Muhammad, you're very welcome!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Joyful, you've done well and I'd say that's a good number of times. You don't have to live in it to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!

muhammad abdullah javed on December 22, 2014:

Thank you so much. Wishing you the same.

Joyfulcrown on December 22, 2014:

MsDora I loved this. I am not a fan of winter. I am originally from the Philippines but thankful I moved to Southern California. I've only seen snow 2 to 3 times in my life.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Muhammad, much happiness to you too, and into 2015! Thanks for your kind comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Alicia, I am more frightened now, after the fact. I was naïve then. I share your opinion about the beauty of snow and ice and their effects. Merry Christmas!

muhammad abdullah javed on December 22, 2014:

I was in my past along with your narration. It was a chilled experience of meeting with your heart throb, the old man winter. The memoiers speak of your passion and faith both in the festival and its season, for you even the coldest of the season brought you the warmth of happiness and prosperity. Thanks for sharing your very personal feelings. Wishing you and your near and dear ones a very happy Christmas, may you witness more such happiest occasions.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 22, 2014:

This is a very interesting hub, Dora. The idea of facing a snowstorm with a tiny baby is frightening! I'm glad your relatives came to meet you. Snow and ice are beautiful, but I don't like some of their effects!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Shauna, I hope I didn't sound too pushy. You really learned all you need to know about winter in New Jersey. Thanks for straightening that out. Let's enjoy our Florida/Caribbean winter.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 22, 2014:

Dora, I moved here from New Jersey. I'm all too familiar with the cold. I don't remember it bothering me as much then, but I sure don't like it now!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Ologsinquito, I didn't know what I was getting into, but thank God like you observed, my baby endured. Thanks for your comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Shauna, glad you're comfortable in Florida, but if you like a challenge, one winter (or part of a winter) might be worth a try. Thanks for your contribution.

ologsinquito from USA on December 22, 2014:

It can get really cold in some parts of the US. This must have been quite an experience the first time you saw snow and felt chilled to the bone. Fortunately, your baby traveled well.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Eric, thanks for always being so sweet. Pleased that you like my story.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 22, 2014:

Dora, you told this story beautiful. I love the opening!

I've lived in Florida since 1976. I don't miss the snow or the cold at all. It's pretty to look at, but I don't like being cold. I know what you mean about getting the sweaters out when the temp dips to 70! It actually gets down to the 30s and 40s here sometimes. That's way too cold for me!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 22, 2014:

What a great writer you are Dora. You captured me in the first line and had me mesmerized until the end. I did not want the story to end but was happy and warm at the end.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Jo, thanks for your beautiful comment. I like your view--reconciling with winter. Yes, I have. Merry Christmas to you, too.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 22, 2014:

Frank, I'm glad too. Pleased that you enjoyed my story. Merry Christmas to you.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on December 22, 2014:

MsDora, a beautiful and captivating read. I thoroughly enjoyed your story, exceptional from beginning to end. That was some introduction to you new home... I'm so glad you were able to reconcile with 'Old man Winter.' Have a wonderful Christmas in the sun, and the very best for 2015.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on December 21, 2014:

what a wondeful memory.. Im glad you took the challenge and shared the suspense.. the past.. the present... voted wonderfully up!!!!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Truth, I hope there were other things about China that you liked, and I hope you get another opportunity to enjoy snow in winter. Thanks for weighing in and Happy Christmas to you!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Jackie, I don't think I'd do it now, and certainly not with a baby. I was really not aware of what I was getting into. Looking forward to Bill's story--and all the others. Thanks for issuing the challenge; I'm glad I participated.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Lori, it's good that we can recall the memories even when we are not in the snow. We can also look at pictures from other cities. Thanks for your input. Merry Christmas!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Ron, you fully understand me. I enjoyed the snow with a closed door between us. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas to you!

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on December 21, 2014:

Hope you have a Christmas in the warm weather. I have always lived in the South. People turn on the high heat when it gets to 50. The snow seems so beautiful and romantic. One year I spent Christmas in China and it was a wet, slushy, dirty show everywhere. All I did was slip and slide all over the place - not as romantic as I thought it would be!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 21, 2014:

Billy said he would write one too; we may have to keep him at his word, huh? I mean in case he tries to change his mind. I think it is great though; I'd love to hear everyone's story, wouldn't you?

I'd have been quite terrified with a 3 month old baby though; I can tell you. I caught a school bus in snow for many years so I remember that "burn"!

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on December 21, 2014:

Wonderful story. I too love the Old man winter. Especially your opening. What a shocker you went through.

I grew up in Southern California from age 11 on. But my beginnings were in the state of Washington. I hated 80 degree Christmases. My mom lived at a place called Salton Sea - a desert community by a massive lake called Salton Sea. Every Christmas Santa would water ski in a red wet suit that looked vaguely like a Santa suit, and had a beard and red and white hat. When he got to the shore he joined his elves and they distributed treats to the children. No lap sitting, he was too wet. I thought is was lame but my kids loved it. We moved back north in '90 and thought it doesn't always snow on Christmas, it is at least cold.

Merry Christmas Dora.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 21, 2014:

Great job, MsDora. I was absorbed reading, and actually chuckled a time or two. And I can definitely identify with your attitude toward snow. I love it - when it's outside and I'm inside looking at it through the window.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Faith, I actually considered "The Beauty of Snow" as my title. I celebrate its beauty with you, and I also do not like driving on it. One of my biggest joys at my retirement was not having to drive to work on the snow. Thanks so much for your comment. Merry Christmas to you and yours also, and much joy and prosperity in the New Year.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Bill, I'm so excited at your feedback. Thanks a million for your encouragement.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on December 21, 2014:

I could feel Old Man Winter chilling me to the bone just reading your descriptive words. I loved reading about your adventure that year with your precious baby. Thank you for sharing and I felt as though I was right there with you!

We have had a few rare snow and ice storms here in the Deep South but, thankfully, they only last no more than three days at the most. I love the beauty of the snow but do not like traveling in icy weather. I can only take about three days at the most, so it is good I do live in the Deep South.

I am so glad you participated in Jackie's Winter Memories Challenge!

Up +++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Merry Christmas and many blessings for the New Year

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 21, 2014:

This is easily my favorite of your writings. The personification of Old Man Winter is excellent; the introduction is exquisite. Oh my, this is so good,

Dora! A job well done, my friend.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Ann, it's hardly to describe the sensation accurately, but I think burning's in there. Glad you like it and Merry Christmas to you, too.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 21, 2014:

Great account of your first cold Christmas! It's true that the cold can burn as well, isn't it? Also when you freeze and then you thaw out it aches like crazy, especially the ears! I'm terrible for not wearing a hat.

This was thoroughly entertaining and I liked your focus on the baby.

Lovely!

Hope you enjoy your warmer Christmas this year. Have a great time!

Ann

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Jodah, you'd be in for a treat. The sting doesn't last. I say, bear it and then be compensated by the beautiful views. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Heidi, thanks for the invitation. So hospitable of you. I've been back once for a woman's retreat and it was in the fall. God willing, I would like to come back just to enjoy Chicago.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Word, if I'd known you then, I might have called on you for rescue. However, all's well that ends well. Thanks for the promise of pictures.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Thanks for the invitation, Jackie. It is your challenge that brought this memory to mind. You sent the Muse. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Margaret, thank you very much for your encouraging comment. Merry Christmas to you also and to your household.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on December 21, 2014:

Love this MsDora. I think I would act the same way if I ever experienced my first snow and Old Man Winter. I can't imagine how cold it must be. Thank you for sharing those memories of Winter.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 21, 2014:

Sorry that a visit here to Chi-town had to be during the blizzard of '78-'79. As a Chicago native, I was also here for the '67 blizzard that was the absolute worst on record. Yep, it can be brutal here. But I agree that the winters here can be beautiful. Hope you come back to enjoy the fall (which is THE best) here. Happy Warm Wishes for the Holidays!

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on December 21, 2014:

Hello MsDora, as usual, I enjoyed your article here. Of course, being in Chicago, I've experienced every winter, even the one you came in. I've gotten used to them whether freezing, cold or mild. I'm glad that you saw your visit as a very good one. I'm sure you enjoyed that Christmas day in Michigan as well because it had more plains, trees and forests of beauty. Fortunately, we haven't had enough snow to talk whoo or about. When we do, I'll send you a couple of pics. So far, our winter has been very pleasant. There's no snow and traffic is allowing for excessive Christmas shopping, going to and fro. Thank you for this marvelous hub. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year coming. God bless!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 21, 2014:

I loved this Dora and just clicked every one of your buttons! I am sure there will not be another like this! That is what is so much fun about these memories!!

Going now and putting you at the top of the list just as soon as I share it!!!!!

ArtDiva on December 21, 2014:

What a captivating introduction. Meetings with Old Man Winter, frozen images "crafted by the snow," warmed by the memory. Happy Holidays to you and yours!