A translation to one of Gili’s personal columns in The Jewish Magazine published in Canada, where she wrote her experiences as a very recent newcomer to Toronto.
Like a pair of pigeons (or gloves)
During cold nights we entertain couples. Each time a different one.
They come to our tall house on the 14th floor to warm up.
Flying to our porch door and crowding on the lintel. The male pigeon lifts his wing and the female pigeon sticks her head inside and cuddles. Or the other way around. At one especially chilly night, we got a visit from a couple of pigeons that found an original way to warm themselves. The male pigeon raised his tail and the female poked her head into his bum and stayed there. And I want to do the same. Maybe not necessarily to poke my head into my guy’s bum, but certainly to shelter under his wing.
With the beginning of winter and it seems this is only the beginning, worries started as well. We are worried that we won’t stay warm and dry and safe; that we won’t fall ill. That we won’t be able to keep the roof over our heads, which protects not only the pigeons but also us. The winter seems to be a scary entity that crawls toward us, schemes evil plots of coldness and threatens to attack.
The first time the temperature dropped to five degrees during the day time, I used my entire arsenal: I went out with boots, two pairs of thick socks, long underwear beneath thick pants, two undershirts, a sweater, a long coat and of course, to complete the look: a hat, scarf and gloves, all made from wool. All of this for me to go for a ten-minute walk around the block to buy dishwashing liquid. I started to peel these layers the moment I got back to our building; with the massive heating indoors, I was melting.
The day to buy proper winter clothing was soon to come after this experience. For that important mission I chose my Canadian friend to teach me the secrets of “Getting your closet ready for winter.” We started by buying three pairs of gloves. I repeat: three!!! In Israel it’s rare for a average person to have one pair of gloves, but my friend explained that three is the minimum. And that’s not counting fashion gloves. After all, I need gloves for the chilly days in the beginning of the winter, gloves for the really cold days and a pair for the horrible days of frost. Surprisingly these gloves look the cheapest. I’m referring to the mittens where all fingers but the thumb crowd together under the same piece of cloth. Apparently the fingers will keep each other warmer when they are together better than when they are in separate wraparound of cloth, each finger on its own. My friend also shared a trick with me, which made my Israeli heart, that seeking to cut off the big winter expenses, very happy: In the most horrible terrible days of inhuman freeze, I can wear my mittens with the daily gloves underneath.
When my friend, smiling like a tourist guide, told the saleswomen that this is my first winter here, the saleswomen played the role of Santa Claus and gave me warm pads for free. She even gave my friend free gloves. But while doing it she whispered: “you are going to come back for much more of that…” When we left the store, I could feel the worried gaze of the saleswomen in back of me. The same look that accompanied me when I left my friends the other evening and they were amazed that I covered myself not just with a coat, but also a hat and gloves, in such an early stage of the winter. “Already?” they wondered, “You know it’s going to get much colder…”
The more we continued the winter shopping, the more I discovered strategies against the winter.
“I want to introduce you,” told me my friend in the other store we went into, “this is what we call the Canadian fur” she said and pointed festively to a cloth made from fleece, that cloth that looks like the inside of sweatshirt.
When I chose my boots, the only ones that do not make me look like a woodcutter; I approached my friend with great concern: “look,” I showed her the tag on the boots, “it says here that the boots are only good till minus 24 degrees”. “Don’t worry,” she laughed, “they will last also if it is colder. It just means that your legs will not need to be chopped off when it is that cold.” “Oh, that’s a relief,” I answered her with a forced smile.
The shoe salesman, who also got to hear from my friend the full story about how I got from warm Israel to first Canadian winter, whispered to me like he was telling me a secret: “You will not know where it comes from. Suddenly around Christmas you will discover that you live in unbearable cold. Even we Canadians are always surprised when the first snow comes. Everybody is so surprised that the first time it snows, they don’t even put salt”.
No doubt, though, that the peak of our journey of arming against the winter was the coat. Apparently, there is nothing to be excited about. It seems that I could do the same by wrapping our blanket around me and going out with it. Nevertheless, this coat, quilted with down, that covers me from top to bottom, is the one I am going to trust this winter. Not my guy that can be comforting indoors, but outdoors is as helpless as I am against the weather crimes.