I was on my evening walk, when I passed my neighbor coming out to her car.
She lives just far enough down the road that, like a true New Englander, I recognize her face, but don’t know her name. She gives me a familiar nod and wave.
“How ah ya?” she asks.
“Good. Howahyoo?” I reply, my accent getting the better of me, slipping out when confronted with another Bostonian accent.
“Good. Sick of the weathah, I’ll tell ya that,” she says, matter-of-factly, referring to the latest dumping of snow we received earlier in the day.
This is New England in winter. Save for the occasional die-hard skier in your life, everyone else around here “hates wintah. Hates the snow” (or, at least, the snow that arrives after December 25th). Just ask them.
Around here, particularly during wintah, we love summah. So much so, that when we have the first unseasonably warm, 70-degree, day in March, you will find us wandering around in shorts and tee shirts. On the first hot day, my kids will pull out the kiddie pool in the backyard, wear bathing suits, and spray each other with the hose – even though it will inevitably turn back to 40 degrees the next day.
Talking about our summahs on the Cape or campin’ up North are what get us through the wintah. Sure, we may take a few ski trips here and there to Maine or Vermont, but that’s all for show. A way to distract ourselves until summah arrives again. In fact, it is statistically proven that the higher frequency of complaints from New Englanders about New England weather can be directly correlated with a close proximity to spring. In other words, my neighbor’s comment means spring is just around the corner.
It is a complicated, love-hate relationship we have with the region and its meteorological patterns, but I’d never go anywhere else. Elsewhere just doesn’t suit. I know. I’ve tried to live in many other places. The South? Too conservative and hot. The Midwest? Too windy, spread out and flat. Florida? Too Florida.
“New England is the only place I will ever live,” my father once told me, perhaps prophetically, years ago before I set out to live in twelve different places, only to find myself back in New England in the end. “New England is the only place where you don’t need to worry about most natural disasters, like tornadoes and earthquakes. They’re rare. ‘Course, there is the occasional hurricane. And then, of course, the snow. But I tend to stay indoors during those,” he said.
For all his love for New England, my father always despised the accent.
“It’s car, with an “r.” Not Ca-ah,” he’d scold me as a kid. “I’m telling you now, whether it’s Cockney, Drawl, or Bostonian, if you show up with a certain kind of accent, people make judgments about you before they know you. “
“Boston accent seemed to work for JFK,” I’d tell him.
“And JFK wasn’t a real leader,” he’d shoot back, rolling his eyes. “JFK was a simply a libertine, elected on good looks.”
Whatever that means.
The most interesting thing about my father’s distaste for the New England accent to me was that my father had grown up poor, one of seven children. Had paid for his education via his Naval service in World War II and had gone to Boston College thanks to the GI Bill.
My mother, on the other hand, had grown up in a privileged family from Needham. Her father was a well-known Boston Globe reporter in his day and my mother went to the finest schools. There was no person in the world my father adored more than my mother. And there was no person in the world I have ever met who had a heavier Boston accent than my mother.
Winter was her Achilles heel. Long before it was common for people to discuss depression and SAD syndrome, I’d call her up on a cold February day and hear her lament the weather.
“I’m sick of the weathah, I’ll tell ya that,” she’d tell me. “I’d love to get in the cah and drive to Florida right now. Leave New England enti-ah-ly.”
Of course, she never did.
New Englanders are born and bred to have this kind of difficult relationship with the cold weather. We hate it, but the sweet reward of New England summer holds us here. A few escape, here and there, but most of us stay – and complain. And wait.
“I’m sick of this weathah, I’ll tell ya that,” we say to each other, as a way of bonding. The yearly storms haze us and give us the feeling of a shared, common experience that binds us. This is New England in the winter.
“Don’t worry,” I call to my neighbor as she heads in. “It can’t last forever.”
“Yup, nothing lasts forever,” she laughs.
“Right!” I say.
Not even a New England winter.