Glenn Cochrane: Divesting oneself of winter is not easy

This is liberation time for me in the fashionable Beach pied à terre I share with The Wife. After several months of waddling about town encased like a mummy in several layers of the sturdy made-in-Canada clothing needed to fend off our winters, I am starting to shed my armour piece by salt-encrusted piece.

My winter boots were the first to go, and I now realize this was something of a mixed blessing. The boots weighed enough on their own, what with all the buckles and things, but over the winter they accumulated sand, dirt, old snowballs and shards of abandoned icicles they probably tipped the scales at 40 pounds each, so when they crashed to the floor beside my liberated feet I had the uneasy feeling that I was going to float ceiling-wards and possibly inflict damage to my head. The Wife, who was never one to flinch in the face of adversity, saved the day by tethering me to a large boulder we kept on hand for the comfort of overnight guests.

After allowing me a suitable period of reflection, The Wife gently lowered me to the floor and I was ready for the next stage in my divesting process, which was the removal of my long johns, a process I approached with decidedly mixed feelings. I have grown quite fond of them during the cold winter months for the uncomplaining manner in which they kept me warm, but they did have certain drawbacks.

One is the tussle associated with getting them on in the morning and off in the evening, but apart from that there is the relentless, fiery itch that comes with wearing the darn things. I am referring of course to true long johns, which come in one color, a vaguely threatening shade of grey, and are made of wool.

I will always believe that the garments were manufactured by a person who hated small boys and made it his life’s mission to ensure that the longies were unbearably itchy and guaranteed to make a young lad’s life a living hell, as if he didn’t have enough to contend with what with older sisters, perpetually running noses and report cards that you always lost on the way home from school. But the long johns were just part of the agonizing and complicated hassle involved in just getting ready to go outside in the Canadian winter. There was the scarf to find, and pants, and a hat and finally the overcoat, which was difficult to locate because your brother always hid it. Finally you were ready to step outside and proceed to the classroom without trouble unless you got conked on the head with a snowball hurled by a hidden assailant. Ah, those were the good old days!

And that leads me to the true purpose of this particular column, which I knew would reveal itself to me if I just kept typing. For years child study experts have been trying to find an answer to the question. Why do small boys so often come home after school or play with only one mitten?

After extensive research into the matter I have come up with an answer, and it is obvious that I am surprised it took me this long to figure out. Small boys grow up in a world that is dominated by the number ‘One’. They live in one house, they have one dog or one cat and they have one father and one mother. When their mothers dress them for school she gives them one lunch and one hat to wear and one scarf to wrap around the neck. So by the time the mittens are put on it would be reasonable for the child to think he’s only got one mitten to worry about, and that is what he comes home with. I believe that parents should only buy one mitten at a time, and teach the kids to put the unmittened hand inside their coats where it will be kept warm. If the child complains, point out that that is what Napoleon did and he had a pretty good run for a while a couple of centuries ago.

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