The TV, internet, and discussions at the neighborhood market were all broadcasting the same weather report. A cold front, called a polar vortex, was imminently going to hit the Mid-West. The forecasted temperatures were to be minus 23 in Chicago and minus 2 in Collinsville, and those numbers did not include the wind chill factors that could plummet the cold’s effect another 20 or more degrees. All civil agencies were advising citizens to remain in their homes if at all possible. The area schools were being closed. Stay home, stay warm, stay safe – that was the advice of the professionals.
Stay home on the cold days of winter? Enjoy the warmth of my fireplace when the snow falls? Look at winter’s outdoor landscape through the window of a cozy home? Sure – I could do that! As a matter of fact, one of the particular factors that I love about living in the Mid-West is winter and winter days. Since the time that I was young, I relished a snow day. During the time when my children were young, I welcomed the occasional inclement weather that forced us all to stay home and play the day away. I would bake cookies, make hot chocolate, build a fire, and find games to play. I always made the cold outside an invitation to warm the hearts of the family. Stay home, stay, warm, stay safe – that advice was an invitation for me to remake winter’s best memories.
Monday morning arrived with the extreme weather that the meteorologists had predicted. My children are now grown with children of their own, so only my husband and I now occupy our home. But did the fact that there are only two of us stop me from reinventing a winter’s freeze day? No, it did not! I started early in the kitchen preparing special treats. Early morning coffee demanded pumpkin cream. The smell of baking wafted through the kitchen. Our fireplace burns gas rather than logs, so the ambiance was present even if the smoky smell was not. And games? I selected the card game of rummy.
By mid-morning, the game had commenced. We were only semi-serious about cards. A movie was playing in the background, to which we gave cursory heed. The whole environment was set for family interaction; and although the family was down to only two, we played the day away from the warmth of our home. And – by the way – I totally defeated my husband in rummy, which added a little extra joy to the whole day’s experience!
I went to bed Monday night thinking about how rarely we can turn an impending worst day into a best day. Life’s problems are almost never solved by a cup of hot chocolate or a causal game of cards. While I was cozy and warm during the vortex, others were seeking shelter from the cold. While I had a companion with whom to play, those who live alone might have been struggling with isolation and loneliness. While I could draw from satisfying family memories, there are people who have no paradigm from which to imagine joy in family life. Sometimes, an external polar vortex brings hazardous conditions from which we can hardly secure internal shelter.
Thankfully, a polar vortex is a temporary weather front. Wind currents can shift and bring warmth. Changing environments introduce new climates. Frigid temperatures become part of history while new headlines catch our attention in the present. If you are currently in a personal “polar vortex” of your own, I trust that God will grace you to find a place of internal warmth and shelter and a spiritual place to “stay home, stay warm, and stay safe” until warmer days arrive.