Baby, It's Cold Outside
Snow may be headed our way this week. My advice: Bring your babies inside.
This column originally appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on February 3, 2013
Chances are, if you're 40 or older, there were events in your childhood that - if they happened today - would warrant a visit from child protective services.
Perhaps you sat on your father's lap to steer while he was driving. Rode your bike without wearing a helmet. Traveled in the bed of a pickup. Set off backyard fireworks. Carried a pocket knife to school. Drank from a garden hose.
I did all of the above and used that dirty green hose as a constant source of hydration because I rarely was allowed in the house. You see, my mom was a fierce believer in fresh air. Summer and winter, my brother and I often could be seen crying on the porch, begging to be let in.
"Stay out!" she'd holler. "Fresh air's good for you."
She truly believed that open windows built immunity. My mother boasted that we were impervious to the diseases that smote the weaker children in our neighborhood simply because we slept with our curtains blowing. We still had our tonsils. None of the other kids did. Case closed.
As soon as my first baby was born, this newly minted grandma began lobbying for fresh-air therapy, reminding me that from the time I was 1 week old, I napped outside.
"I'm not doing that to my daughter," I told her. "I'm letting her sleep in the house."
"Aw, the biggest danger you ever faced was just that one snowstorm," she laughed, as she launched into yet another tale that convinced me I may have been raised by wolves.
Seems on one particularly frigid February afternoon, when I was just 5 months old, my mother wrapped me up and stuck me in the baby carriage, which was parked in the grass. She then went back inside to wax the floors in our second-floor apartment.
"You were fine," she added quickly. "You were wearing a snowsuit. Plus, I put a mosquito net over the carriage, one with fishing weights in the corners so it wouldn't blow away."
I know what you're thinking. No, mosquitoes definitely were not a problem in New Jersey in winter. The netting was there to keep leaves and acorns off me, and to fend off cats and other predators.
I've never waxed a floor, but I assume it involves crawling around on your hands and knees, which might explain why my mother not only lost track of time, but also the weather.
When the floors were gleaming - about three hours later - she glanced outside and was shocked to discover that it was snowing.
Not just a few flurries. Or a little snow shower. A full-fledged blizzard was howling.
"I was so upset that I ran outside in my bare feet," she told me, which I doubted because my mother never went barefoot, even in the summer.
By the time my shoeless mother arrived at my carriage, snow had drifted up the sides and the mosquito netting had caved in under the weight of at least six inches of snow.
"I was afraid you'd sort of smothered in an avalanche," she confessed. "But when I pulled the net off and brushed the snow off, you were still sleeping. Your cheeks were really red, though."
After a few minutes of disbelief, I had to ask: "Did you ever worry that I'd be kidnapped? I mean, you put a baby in a carriage on an unfenced corner lot, where anyone could walk up."
"Kidnapped?" she snorted. "They didn't kidnap children back then."
"Does the Lindbergh baby ring a bell?" I snapped, reminding her of an abduction from her own childhood.
"We weren't the Lindberghs,'" she said, grinning. "We didn't have any money. What kind of ransom were they going to get from the Doughertys?'
"Did you worry that you could be arrested?' I asked.