Chicago's "Bean" covered with snow - photo by Sharon Hicks Bartlett

There is about a foot of snow piled in a neat stack on the railing around the deck in my back yard… or as my husband refers to it, the back garden, which sounds much nicer than it actually looks most of the time. Poor Declan was out there a good portion of last night fueling up the snow blower and trying to keep up with the incessant snow, which didn’t really look like much coming down, but quietly kept coming and piling up throughout Monday night and all of Tuesday. Usually, I get out there and do a bit of shoveling during the day, but I have a nasty cold and could not bring myself to venture outside any more than absolutely necessary yesterday. My cold is also why I am up drinking Sleepytime Tea with honey and lemon and blogging at 3am! I rarely get sick, knock on wood, so when I do, it comes as a bit of a surprise and I don’t cope very well.

The first thing Declan did when he moved to the States… well no, actually he did it when he first applied for his U.S. VISA… was purchase a snow blower! Irishman that he is, Chicago snow and cold were a bit of a shock to him. He quit smoking, for awhile, after spending just one week here with us in February of 2001 when my daughter was in the hospital for a surgery. Being forced to stand outside the hospital doors for a week with the other smokers in the frigid cold of that particular February worked as well as any nicotine gum! When he was finally allowed his VISA and moved here to join us, it was another extremely bitter, cold winter. He arrived just after Christmas and was a bit surprised at my gift to him. Holding up the big, white, hooded Eddie Bauer parka he exclaimed, “Where did I move to, the North Pole?!” Later, he would tell his friends “back home” who wonder at our extreme temperatures, how his parka keeps him warm enough, but his legs are always freezing! (In the summer he likes to tell the folks back in Ireland that he comes into the house to cool off in air conditioning set to the same temperature they’re complaining of as “hot” over there!) Also, that first winter he eventually had to give in and switch from scraping the ice from his car windshield every morning with a credit card, to conforming and using an ice scraper like the rest of us!

My time spent living in Ireland was a weather adjustment for me as well, but quite different. I remember that I pretty much wore the same jacket, either layered or not, throughout the entire year! That year in Ireland I hardly remember an actual season. I do remember one particularly lovely day in October though. It was a bank holiday (a wonderful European invention the US could use a bit of) so Declan, Kate and I drove out to the West for the weekend. I have photos of us at the Cliffs of Moher with sweaters tied around our waists and wearing sunglasses. But I also remember that following summer, suddenly realizing one day while visiting my mother-in-law in Dublin that… hey, it’s the middle of July and I’m still wrapped in a sweater, shivering in front of the fireplace… I guess this is summer! I learned that year that while Chicago experiences the seasons with extreme changes in temperature, Ireland experiences the seasons with much more extreme changes in light. The days become very short in the winter and grow to a lovely length in the summer, when the night never goes completely black. But sometimes it’s not so easy to tell the season by the temperature.

I don’t know that either place is better or worse when it comes to weather; they’re just very different. However, my husband’s alarm clock is set to wake him up early this morning so he can bundle up and tackle that driveway before work, so, I would say his adjustment to Chicago weather has taken a bit more resolve and strength of character than I had to muster for Ireland! So, cheers Declan, maybe you can think of this when you’re back in Ireland complaining of the rain!