Hibernation Suits Me
I think hibernation suits me.
I admire the bears, skunks, bees, snakes, and bats who all take a winter break from their daily routine and go into a state of minimal activity. The “true” hibernator, the woodchuck, or groundhog, sleeps so soundly that it is nearly impossible to wake him up. His heart goes from 80 beats a minute when active, to four or five beats in hibernation. I guess he is the gold standard for hibernation and that is why we have a holiday just for him. Groundhog Day.
Of course, I cannot stall my body to match that animal extreme, but I am fine with slowing down. I like naps. I don’t mind snuggling under the covers in a dark room and I prefer not to consume large quantities of food. Periods of solitude are fine.
But, what really primed me for hibernation was my small town upbringing in Ames, New York. Here the winter days were long and dark and I stayed close to home. During that season, I climbed up the steep steps of the idling school bus at dawn and marched back down in the late afternoon as the sun waited on the horizon to say goodbye. School was my only outside destination.
During those cold months, my mother insisted upon dinner by candle light. The soft glow from the wicks offset the harsh winter weather outside the dining room windows and the muted radiance invited our shadows to dance on the thick draperies. On the weekends, a fire roared in the family room fireplace spreading an extra heat layer in the space where we spent most of our time together.
During wintertime Saturdays, as a kid I played outside in the snow for hours. A bulky snowsuit and extra long scarf provided me with a warm cocoon. I liked to lick the ice balls that collected on the colorful wool fibers of my hand-knit mittens. Hour after hour I trudged up our nearby favorite hill and flew back down on a metal flying saucer or stacked my body on a wooden sled in between my sisters or neighbor kids from our single street town. All of my fun was in my backyard.
Until 1966 there was no nearby shopping mall. The two neighborhood stores at either end of Ames supplied milk, bread, and cans of tomato soup. Seven miles away in Canajoharie, the downtown A&P grocery store provided fresh meat and vegetables and Jenks’s Pharmacy sold rarely needed over-the-counter medications and Yardley makeup.
When the Canajoharie movie theatre closed, its replacement was an elusive 30 minute drive away. But luckily the advent of color television was in itself a treat for me. After the tubes warmed up on our set and I first saw the opening colorful scene of Bonanza blazing on to the 20″ screen, I was hooked.
There were no fast food establishments in Ames. Our family didn’t need them either. Mom was a wonderful cook. She made our meals from scratch as we dutifully followed the chart taped to the kitchen wall dictating our dinner chores. My three sisters and I were assigned a number according to birth order and each day of the week rotated with a specific mealtime job. I liked setting the table because then I had nothing to do afterwards. Dinnertime was not rushed. It was not unusual to sit around the table for more than an hour. Besides sharing events of the day, the nightly family gathering often served as an additional learning opportunity. Once my sisters and I were challenged to memorize the U.S. Presidents whose pictures appeared on our waxy quart milk cartons. It took a while to drink the milk and then cut the images out to collect a full set.
Growing up in a large family, located in a small town, and during a simpler time, provided a special opportunity to become self-reliant and to feel satisfied with minimal external influences.
I was resourceful and imaginative. I transformed my red Keds, with carpet tacks and Orange Crush bottle caps, in to my own tap shoes. The wind-up Victrola in our barn provided the music. I also loved to wake up early on Sunday mornings to secretly twirl around in the family room to the classic Flight of the Bumble Bee while pretending to be a famous dancer. Multiple scarves billowed around my head in the frenzy. https://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2015/07/dont-look-by-kim-kluxen-meredith/
As a teenager, alone in my bedroom, I turned a hairbrush into a microphone and belted out contiunous renditions of Ruby Tuesday. When dust collected on the portable record player’s needle and the music skipped, I reset Mick Jaeger and started again.
In the summer months, my blue bike with an attached basket and foot brakes, transported me around the countryside in search of more adventures. There was always someplace to go and something to see. The crick near our house taught me about pollywogs and leaches. I liked looking for the deep purple petals from the roadside Queen Ann’s lace that I carried home in my basket. I was told the center blossom represented the queen. Nature was a great companion.
Now, I do not want you to get the wrong idea. I was not a hermit or a social misfit. I had friends. I went to Sunday school in Ames and attended its ice cream socials and rummage sales. My dad drove my older sister and me to high school dances in Canajoharie in his yellow pickup truck. I even went on dates to the near-by drive-in with boyfriends who had cars. But, I did not require constant outside stimulation. Looking back, I recall that a great amount of my happiness came from within. Perhaps I was naturally low maintenance and blessed with an extra joyful spirit.
The current pandemic situation is calling upon all of us to reduce our social interaction for the greater good. We are being asked to sacrifice our social impulses and hunker down at home for the next few months.
For some, this appears to be a dark tunnel. My husband has expressed that concern. However, this is going to be manageable for me. I just have to channel that childhood inner spirit and create some extra fun at home.
During this time, I will have a chance to pull out my cookie press and bake some spritz cookies. Shoveling our long driveway when the snowfalls takes hours under the guidance of cardinals and stray squirrels and is good exercise. Chopping vegetable to put in the crockpot for a special soup makes me happy. And of course, there is always writing.
When the green light comes on and hibernation is over, I admit I may have to dust off a few dormant habits for my social re-entry. First, I will need to find my bra, now buried deep in my underwear drawer. Then, I will have to reintroduce myself to my wardrobe and put away the favorite three sweaters and leggings I have been continuously wearing. Of course, I will have to start painting my nails my signature red again and slip on rings and bracelets that may well be in the antique category now. I hope my liquid foundation has not dried up and that my mascara has not clumped in the pink tube in the bathroom cabinet. Seeing my friends again will be like going on a blind date. We will have so much to share.
So, I am ready for this upcoming season of hibernation. I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that will carry me through. Daily phone calls from family and friends will be my oxygen. Hope is my fuel.
Hibernation. Bring it on!