Growing up in a Drafty Old House and Other Winter Thoughts

I think part of my aversion to cold comes from the move our family did when I was ten. We moved to the country (about an hour away from our first house) and my parents set about remodeling an old house. The house was nice, but it was only partially heated, and a bit drafty. And that first winter was rough. At night I would literally have a pile of covers on myself. Quilts, blankets and an afghan on top, most of which my grandmother made.

I remember in storybook fashion imagining tendrils and wisps of cold making their way through the cracks in the house where they could, and coming straight for me. They would creep through the darkness and try to get in some place I left uncovered, or perhaps between the blanket and the bed. Mom would roll up a towel to put at the base of the doors, because you could feel cold air creeping under it. The same goes for some of the windows. But you couldn’t cover all the cracks.

We had a wood-burning stove in the living room and before bed I’d hold a blanket as close to it as I could without setting it on fire, then bundle it up to hold the heat and hurry to bed. Later Mom found what I guess you could call a “heat rock”. Essentially it was a black rock shaped like a large book, about 6″ wide, 10″ tall and about 1″ thick with a handle. Lay that puppy under the stove in the morning and wrap it in a blanket before bed — it would stay warm for hours and hours.

Getting out of bed was a chore, I’d rush to the stove and hope someone had built a fire, or to the wall-mounted gas heater in the hall. If neither of these was an option you had to throw clothes on fast.

Then I had something about hats as a kid, I hated them. So waiting for the school bus my ears and nose usually went completely numb. That one’s on me.

Since I started shaving my head in 2003 I always have a toboggan around in the winter (people from other regions call them knit caps, beanies, whatever). Finding really thick ones is more challenging than you might think. I’ve had the most luck at hunting supply stores where it’s more about practical warmth than style.

The old house isn’t drafty anymore, but my father is so warm-natured that the last time I visited my parents the thermostat was set to 63°! I don’t know how that’s considered comfortable. I took a space heater and kept it about 75-80° in my room.

Then there was the cabin. In the early/mid-90’s my parents bought about 45 acres in the north Georgia mountains and got the idea of building a cabin on it…by themselves. So for a couple years we would go up there and camp, they would work on the cabin and I mostly kept an eye on my little sister. It’s a nice retreat now, has all the comforts of home (Dad refuses to put in a phone however.) But I’ll never forget how cold it was waking up in a tent some mornings, and trying to build a fire so I could warm one side of myself at a time. Of course we didn’t work on it in the dead of winter, but it got pretty cold at before bed and in the morning.

So I just don’t like being cold. I’m a lean guy with low body fat. Now days I do all I can to mitigate it. As an adult I can retreat to my small office with a space heater and get it as hot in there as I want, it’s no one’s business but mine, thank you very much.

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