Sunday, March 7, 2010

Two weeks of winter

I never thought I'd want my February vacation destination to be just outside of Buffalo, NY. I never knew I would meet a man from Lockport, NY and love his family, either.

The first time I visited was a September, when things are usually cooling off and the leaves are starting to turn color; when they put away shorts and start to wear thin sweaters. When I arrived I breathed in expecting crisp air and instead got a big gulp of heat and humidity. I was prepared for weather in the 60s and I spent my week sweating in my corduroys and hoodies. Looking back, I don't know why I didn't just go to the local store and buy a pair of cheap shorts and a tank top.

Two years later, in 2008, my husband-to-be and I visited in late October to get married in Niagara Falls, NY. It was scarf and long sleeve weather that time but due to the hot, dry summer that preceded, the leaves were still mostly green. One of these days I'll get out there for a real east coast autumn - I've heard the locals brag about those.

After seeing a hot summer (I consider that September "summer") and a cooler autumn, the next logical time to visit would be winter, right? Naturally. My husband and I have talked about moving to the east coast, that dreaded east coast, the place I've always been warned about due to the winters. The place that turns desert dwellers into stone. I'm only considering it because I like his family enough to think it might be ok to have my blood turn to ice for half the year. I thought it would be wise to visit Western New York in the middle of winter to see if I could take it. Plus, don't tell anyone, I kind of like the snow and wanted to see Niagara Falls when it's fluffy with snow and ice.

Fast forward to February 2010. The Farmer's Almanac predicted that the middle 2 weeks of February are typically snowy with temperatures in the mid 20s to low 30s. It just so happened that my father-in-law has a week off from teaching for winter break for one of those weeks. Tickets booked! By another lucky chance, the time we scheduled to visit coincided with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I watched a lot of Olympics!

Wouldn't you know that in Lockport NY, they not only have CBC, but also CTV! I was able to watch the Canadian Olympics on a Canadian channel. I was happy that I didn't have to rely on NBC for the coverage. My husband summarized it perfectly with his impersonation of the dialog you'd hear on NBC, "Well Bob, they just need to put the pedal to the metal and pull out all the stops here. This team needs to give it everything they've got and go out and really win that thing!" American sportscasters are excellent at talking without ever saying anything.

What's the Olympics without a little booze? OK - A lot of booze. New York doesn't have government controlled liquor stores like Washington and the prices are unbelievably cheap in comparison. When we first arrived we went to the liquor store and bought $70 worth of scotch, brandy, and tequila that would have easily cost twice as much in Seattle. Oh, and the reason we bought so much booze? The things we bought on our last trip, things we were expecting to still be left-over hanging out in that back cabinet, guess where they went? My adorable mother-in-law, who doesn't drink, decided to mix everything together. She thought since they smelled the same she might as well save some space and mix them all together. Even after relentless teasing from Adam, she thought that saving space trumped him being "finicky about his booze."

I had a wonderful time sitting by the fireplace with a scotch in hand while looking out the window at falling snow. I went for walks in the snow and shoveled the driveway. Even though I was on the opposite side of the country from Vancouver, I felt closer to the athletes as they competed on the snow and ice when I was able to look outside and see the same. I thoroughly enjoyed my little bit of winter. I loved it for two weeks and as I congratulate myself for making it through, I wonder if I could really take it for four or five months. I had no trouble in 20 degree weather but I know it gets much colder! In just two weeks I got tired of the effort it took to get dressed for the outdoors.

Now that I'm back home to an early spring in full bloom, I'm realizing that the East Coast is starting to appeal to me in the smallest way. I find myself looking at the plum tree in the yard and pretending the white puffy branches are covered in snow instead of blossoms. I wish I could have stayed in New York with my in-laws to ride out the long winter and rejoice with them when their trees begin to bud. I like watching them crack open and seeing the blooms peek out, noting how much bigger they are than the day before. It almost feels unfair that I fast forwarded to spring in Seattle and missed that wonderful transition period. I guess that means the next vacation to Lockport, NY will be in the spring!