Having donned a hat purchased at an outdoor farmers’ market at Helsinki’s Harbor many Februarys ago, I felt armed to deal with current weather here in our urban village. Despite its “foxy furriness” that inspired honorary nephew Will Cosmas, JD to name it “Aunt Annette’s Finnish Fright Wig,” I wear it with peace of mind and seem to hear it whisper, “And I thought it was cold there on the Baltic!”
It has made me sensitive to my neighbors’ headwear choices. Looking out the window of the MTA’s Uptown 103 bus yesterday I did however register a bit of surprise at the fedora that somehow clung to the heavy wool scarf that wrapped the head of a woman who was apparently garbed in a full closet’s worth of sweaters, coats, and diverse warm wear. This mild amazement prepared me to look to my left and be remarkably unfazed by the well and conservatively garbed “man in a suit” who topped his sartorial choices with the vinyl helmet that suggested more mandatory uniform than fashion choice. I believe it bore some print ID information above its front beak.
But by that time, I looked up to see what cross street we were approaching and noted that both on our bus and on the sidewalks outside adults were rolling wheeled vehicles with no visible passengers. For many months as the weather turned chilly I wondered that infants had tiny hands protruding from snowsuits, parkas and lavish layers of down and wool. Whatever happened to the mittens of my childhood anchored to little bodies by a connecting cord that stretched from wrist to wrist-mitten to mitten that insured that the streets would not be awash in a crazy quilt of single mittens? But now, both the uncovered hands and the babies themselves have disappeared and a new breed of zipped and hooded stroller “duvets” are the upped antes of protective gear. And yes, I must admit, I observe this phenomenon with a tinge of envy.
Speaking of mittens, I have a friend with a long history of adapting to climates from Ireland to the U.S. via Norway and Kuwait who insists that the only handwear with a hope of maintaining some measure of warmth is (are?) mittens. She insists that any form of these will do the job better than any equivalent gloves. Except perhaps for silk gloves worn under the mittens.
My mind races to think of where one would find silk gloves. I do have a couple of pairs of white kid gloves that have taken on the aura of quaint anachronism. But silk? I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps a liturgical vestment supplier? From the masses of boxes that arrive daily at my address, and the fact that someone has even been engaged to transport these to individual residents’ doors each afternoon, I am inclined to think that absolutely anything can be ordered online. But first I need to find the mittens that won’t look like they were loaned to me by a cross country skier and that form a very uneasy alliance with a black wool princess style coat. So, the quest for silk gloves currently goes on hold.
Like anything that seems to present a new or at least unaccustomed challenge, the current cold blast sent me to review the writings of Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine? Where did that connection arise in the search for insight about a highly unusual deep freeze currently stretching from top to bottom of the contiguous states of the east coast? The phrase that popped up in my mind was from The American Crisis, for which he coined one of his most famous descriptions of the birthing period of our current democracy.
As a firm believer that there are no coincidences in life, I quote the good and balanced man. Hoping that his centuries-old words are firmly in the public domain, I repeat them and note that what started as a slightly lighthearted application of his wisdom remains to cast light on challenges even greater than an unusual meteorological event.
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
So, “Hats Off” to Patriot Thomas Paine and any event, however unlikely, that moves us to revisit these words that are a precious part of our patrimony.