Aomori-shi, Aomori-ken, Japan
Confession time: Ann Arbor isn’t the coldest or the snowiest place I’ve lived. My sister likes to make fun of me for the machismo of this boast, but it’s true. I’ve seen colder and I’ve seen much snowier. I lived for a year in a prefecture in Japan called Aomori. The snow was so intense in the winter that I would have to shovel my small patch of sidewalk before I went to work in the morning, first thing upon returning, and then again before going to sleep. And it was up to my knees by each new shoveling.
Of course, that leads to my second confession: I happen to love a good winter. If the temperature doesn’t drop and the snow doesn’t pile up by the end of November, I feel a bit cheated. I feel downright miserable if I don’t get it at least by Christmas. (And, yes, I take Bing Crosby very seriously when he says he’s dreaming of a White Christmas. Me too, Bing. Me too.) And while others may start to feel blue if they don’t see blue sky in a while, I’m never so down-in-the-mouth as I am at high noon in mid-summer or so filled with glee as I am at that first spatter of snow.
So when I thought about “dealing” with winter in Ann Arbor, I realized I would have to seek outside counsel.
I did a quick survey of the winter-haters I know. One friend suggested, “Drink? Or pretend you’re in Game of Thrones.” Another offered this wisdom: “I buy beautiful dresses and dream of summer.” A former roommate admitted to “drinking approximately six family-sized pots of tea per day. But I can’t exactly recommend it.” A recent escapee reminisced about chugging Vitamin D and “mad knitting.”
These winter-haters and I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye of course, but we can agree on one point that makes an Ann Arbor winter wonderful: Midnight Madness. Explaining what Midnight Madness is is not the same as explaining how wonderful it is, but here goes. Midnight Madness is the night when all the stores on Main Street stay open until midnight. I know, it sounds so simple and blasé. It isn’t at all. There’s some special brand of holiday cheer that goes into the air that night, the kind that doesn’t necessarily need “Merry Christmas” (or the more P.C. “Happy Holidays”) hovering around it to be warm and inviting and so-very-seasonally-appropriate. It’s the kind of holiday cheer that makes people willing to press in closer—but not too close—and rub elbows with each other, talk to strangers, possibly sing in the streets, and notice those tiny fairy doors hidden around town.
Of course, there was the beatific Chocolate House which served the best hot chocolate that this chocolate lover (read “fiend” in place of “lover,” it’s totally code) has ever tasted. And there’s nothing quite like being under those trees filled with lights with that cup of hot chocolate in your hands in the middle of the night. And if the sky sees fit to sprinkle the world with snow....well.
If that doesn’t make a winter-fancier out of you, I don’t know what will.
About the Author
Bessie McAdams, Ph.D. Student, English
Published in: Student Voices