If ’tis the season of the pumpkin run,
And ’tis the season of the festival of mums,
And ’tis the season of the cider donut,
Then ’tis also the season of the changing of the clothes.
This is one of those Northern Things we didn’t have in Texas. In Texas you can tell that the seasons changed because people start whining about the weather. In the summer, there’s no point to whining about the weather – it’s hotter than the fiery pits of hell, and stickier than a piece of used chewing gum, and, well, if people could rustle up the energy, then tempers would be mighty short. Besides, if you start whining about the heat and humidity of the eight-month-long Texas summer, then when would you ever stop?
Fall is different. They call it “fall” because the leaves fall off the trees. In New England, they turn amazing colors and provided a major tourist draw before they fall down. In Texas, they pretty much just go straight from April, to Dead. Unless it’s mountain cedar, in which case it goes from pollen cycle to pollen cycle, sickening thousands with every blast of tree sperm. Mountain cedars pollinate with cold snaps too, which just adds insult to the existing tremendous injury. Texans have a sick sense of conflict when the weather map shows a bright blue spiky line diving down from Canada.
On one hand, Texans are thinking “Yahoo! A cold front!! It’s going to get down into the upper 50s at night! Turn on the electric blankets, break out the hot chocolate, and someone get a fire going! We’re having winter!!!”
And on the other hand, the same Texans are also thinking “Ah, shit, a cold front. Means the trees are gonna pollinate. Better hit the pharmacy for a refill of my steroidal nasal spray and get it going before my sinuses back up so hard my ears pop when I swallow, and it feels like fire ants are crawling all over my skin and scalp. Damned cedar.”
I know, I know. There’s you, thinking “oh, yeah, another one of those Tall Texas Tales. hay fever so bad your ears pop when you swallow. that’s a good one. pull the other finger, it’s got bells on.”
But, I swear it on a stack of Bibles, it’s perfectly, totally, literally true. I know this because it happened to me every winter before God Gave Us Flonase, the only allergy drug that works for something like this. I had it so bad one year that my sense of taste was completely gone – not that I wanted to eat much anyway, what with my ears popping every time I chewed or swallowed – but it was so bad. How bad was it? It was so bad that I loaded up a baked potato with sour cream that was way the other side of its grave, and the only way I could tell was that it was dead was because of the weird grainy texture from all the curdling. Yes. Allergies so bad you can eat rancid milk products and not even realize it.
That’s when I Found Flonase. That stuff was a real godsend to central Texas, too, because before that, with every cold front you’d have maybe 30% of the population wandering about like the most miserable pack of zombies on the green earth, all stoned out of our beans on Benadryl…and still suffering. Yessir, Flonase Saved Civilization.
Anyway, when the dewpoint drops to a bone-dry 65 degrees, and the nighttime temps go down to 59, you know it’s winter in Texas. And that means that you bring out the sweater. And the jacket. And maybe you go into that drawer where you keep the oddball items like bathing suits and cycling shorts, and you find the long-sleeved t-shirt.
All of that notably singular. Because in Texas, winter comes in 2-day long increments. You get winter for two days after a front, and then it goes back to being April. Maybe another three weeks later, you get another two days of winter, and then four weeks of April. Somewhere in there, everyone throws on a jacket and changes out of the sandals into closed-toe shoes and goes out shopping for an Xmas Tree. Because, you know, on some visceral level it is generally known that shopping for an Xmas Tree in a t-shirt, shorts, and pair of flip-flops is wrong.
That, however, is pretty much the extent of the Seasonal Wardrobe Changeover. That, and trying to remember where the umbrellas went when the dry spell fired up last May.
In New England, it’s a different matter. Sure, I still have that oddball drawer full of off-season stuff, because I know there will be warm days in the spring, or cool days in the fall, but not enough of them coming together consecutively to warrant the full Changing Of The Clothing. In the north, and I learned this good and proper when I moved from College Station, Texas to Madison, Wisconsin, and discovered that not all sweaters are made of cotton, I discovered that the points of overlap between the Summer Wardrobe and the Winter Wardrobe are minimal. Mainly consisting of a waterproof slicker, and a pair of leather boat shoes. Beyond that, there’s no points of similarity.
The Summer Wardrobe has t-shirts and shorts, and lightweight cotton sweaters, and thin hoodies, and linen slacks and jackets, and silk shells. It has Birkenstoks and canvas boat shoes and sandals and huaraches. It has thin, stretch riding breeches, and a whole stack of disreputable short-sleeve t-shirts only ever worn to the barn (and any place I have to stop at en route). It has cotton dresses and thin white cotton tunics. It has capri pants and fabric skimmers. It has a waterproof slicker and a pair of leather boat shoes.
The Winter Wardrobe has waffle-weave and rugby shirts, stacks of wool sweaters (with a few silk blends thrown in for variety). It has mock turtlenecks in every style under the sun, and corduroys. It has heavy woven dress jackets and thin silk turtlenecks for layering. It has a rainbow of clogs, to keep one’s feet out of the inevitable muck, and a whole shelf of boots. It has coats – light coats, technical coats, wool coats, long dress coats, short sports coats, and a disreputable flannel-lined water-resistant duck-cloth woven field coat for the barn. It has flannel-lined pants, pants made from high-tech mystery fibers spun from recycled soda bottles, and more cords. It has flannel pajamas and a drawer full of silk thermal underwear. It has thick knee socks and fur-lined slippers with non-skid soles. It has thick jeans, dress shoes that can only be worn when there hasn’t been a heavy rain or snowstorm in recent history. It has duck shoes in six different colors, because once winter really sets in, these are the only things to wear, assuming you don’t want to ruin your good shoes. It has a waterproof slicker and a pair of leather boat shoes.
The Changing of the Clothes requires the logistical skills of General Patton, and a willingness to crack the whip, because otherwise, the house will be littered with rubbermaid totes in partial stages of unpacked-ness until May, and everyone in the house will be perpetually cranky because nothing can be found. It is additionally complicated in my house by the fact that my house, and I love my house, has four stories, counting the basement. The basement is where out-of-season clothes live. The top floor is where Roy’s clothes live, and the floor behind that is where my clothes live. So any rubbermaid totes full of vestments have to be hauled up a minimum of two narrow flights of stairs, unpacked, repacked, and hauled back down again.
A long while back I found that the only way to do this that doesn’t make everyone hate each other for weeks is to do it in one huge marathon. It’s not a fun day, but there’s nothing quite so satisfying as the sight of a closet with the upcoming season’s clothes all neatly stored, the vision of rubbermaid totes stacked neatly back in the basement, and the knowledge that this wretched chore will not have to be done again for six months.
Such is the price of living in an Historic Home. I know, from pictures, that the Victorians wore a stunning amount of clothing at one time, but damned if I know where they put it when it wasn’t on the body, because it sure as hell didn’t go into their closets. I don’t think the closets in my house would hold even one crinoline, let alone a couple of them, and a big fluffy dress, let along more than one change of clothes. It’s really a mystery to me.
Another matter the significantly complicates the Changing of the Clothes in my house is a certain disparity in the size of our wardrobes. Roy’s entire winter wardrobe, without the collection of outdoor boots, fits in five rubbermaid totes. My entire winter wardrobe, without the collection of outdoor boots, requires thirteen rubbermaid totes. I can’t feel it at all fair to make Roy sherpa those thirteen totes up two narrow flights of stairs, so I do it all myself. And, because no one can drag their heels harder or longer over the hassle of the Changing of the Clothes than Roy, I usually wind up hauling his five bins too. I found that if I stack them up so that they block the stairs leading up to his study, he will usually get the idea to carry them up the rest of the way, and once there, the notion to actually unpack them and extract his next-season clothing usually strikes.
I won’t say that it’s an easy time in the house. But at least it only usually takes a few days from start to finish, and at least, it’s over until next May.
To celebrate the rumble of the rubbermaid totes, I have this amazing dish of apples and cherries. It’s extraordinary.
1¼ C old-fashioned oats
a generous cup of packed brown sugar
¾ C flour
a generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon
¼ t salt
¾ C butter
1 C sliced almonds, toasted in a pan, and chopped
½ C chopped crystallized ginger
4 pounds tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1½ C dried tart cherries (NOT the sweetened kind)
½ C sugar
juice of one lemon
1 T flour
liberal dash of ground cinnamon
The easy way is to use the food processor. Mix oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Put the almonds and crystallized ginger in the processor and pulse until chopped up. Add the butter and pulse until it gets lumpy. Add the dry oat mix, and pulse until you get a crumble consistency. Put into the fridge while doing the next step.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 13×9 baking dish. Combine apples, cherries, sugar, lemon juice, flour and ground cinnamon in large bowl and mix it up well. Put into the baking dish and flatten out a little. Sprinkle topping over apples. Bake until topping is browning, about 55 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, or just eat directly out of the pan with a spoon. It all just gets better with age, too, so you can nibble on this out of the fridge for several days.