East of Elmgrove

It’s Time to Winterize

Assembling a survival kit for the chilliest months


As I write, the forecast for tomorrow calls for our first snow of the season. A walloping three inches. This time last year, and probably the year before, we were knee-deep in snow, and I was turning up the thermostat in our house every two seconds. It was colder than it is now, but, still, any chill offends. My BFF is the sweltering summer of the American South. Yet here I reside, family to nurture, hearth to protect. I break out my winter survival guide and go forth.

First priority is a decent puffer coat. Wool doesn’t cut it. Apologies to animal lovers, but I need feathers from ducks or geese to stay warm. If a chemist wants to come up with an alternative to down that works, I’ll consider it. But the synthetic fabric on the market today is mediocre; it flattens out much too soon. It’s hard to find a decent puffer coat, what with all the knockoffs out there. My coat has to be snug, but loose enough so I can sit comfortably in my dining room – the coldest room in our drafty house.

My first stop was the Internet. Big mistake. Puffers selling for up to $2,500 from high-end department stores popped up on my screen, and those were the cheap ones. I found others that weren’t as expensive, but decided that, in the end, one needs to try on a puffer to find out if it satisfies. I had a stiff drink and went to the Providence Place Mall. Down coats galore, even the showy red Canada Goose jackets, which I scratched off my list because their fur, I’m told by my son, is from coyotes. I found a reason to dislike every puffer I saw: too tight, too big, too shiny, too long. I gave up. Back home, I discussed my dilemma, and my son suggested I try his old black puffer, which is covered with patches to contain wayward feathers. It fit perfectly. Sold.

My other top priority for the winter is a good hat. This is a problem. For years, I wore an orange hat with flowers embroidered on its rim, but I put it in the wash, where it shrunk to an unacceptable size and left the flowers frayed and wilting. Finding a new hat is difficult. I can’t bear the feel of scratchy wool against my scalp or the look of something pointy, with an elfish ball on top. I need a pillbox style, with a soft interior. I searched but came up with nothing. Hats are mostly oversized and floppy today. My son intervened again, offering his burgundy skullcap with a fleece lining. Not especially stylish, but it will do.

Gloves are also a necessity for the winter months. It’s hard, if not impossible, to keep track of a pair of gloves. One loses its way on a frosty sidewalk; the other languishes alone on a cafe tabletop. They will never couple again. I once owned nice gloves. My sister sent me two pairs of soft leather gloves in black and brown for Christmas one year, and I bought a pair of hardy rag wool gloves last winter. All were lost. I searched through our glove basket not long ago, and found nothing but onesies. One glove too many, and they were all lefties.

Knowing that I would probably repeat my carelessness, I decided to buy inexpensive gloves that I wouldn’t miss should they disappear. I thought of the gloves at CVS on Angell. They hang on a pole, specimens of practicality and simplicity – forest green with a ribbed cuff, a half-fingered Fagin, light pink with tiny rubber daisies on the palm to double as driving gloves. They were all charming and cheap: $3.99 a pair. I bought two.

Fear did not rise up and seize me this season. I didn’t have to go far to winterize. What I needed was right in front of me –  homespun or at the corner drugstore.