New England has more seasons than any other place I’ve ever lived. Texas has two seasons: Hot Dry, and Cool Wet. You can get both seasons in the space of one week, and they each come around multiple times per year, but there are still only two. Wisconsin had four seasons: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Very basic and uncomplicated, those seasons. New England has at least six. There’s the usual Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring, but then there’s also Stick and Mud.
Stick comes between Fall and Winter, and it’s one of the two seasons that is characterized by a preponderance of the color Brown. Stick is the inevitable payment, with interest, for the fabulous New England Fall, known world-wide for its stunning multicolored beauty. At some point, all of those wonderful brightly colored Fall leaves, well…fall. Fall off. Hit the ground, and lie there, moldering, leaving the world full of, well…sticks. Stick season.
Mud comes between Winter and Spring, and is the sad payment, with interest, for those picturesque hills covered with glistening white blankets of snow. At some point, it melts, and because the topography of New England can be summarized with a few short words like “hilly”, “rocky”, and “surface water” we get a truly epic season of Mud. This year, astonishingly – given the record amounts of snow we had – Mud was surprisingly short and surprisingly not horrible. Huey has been known to lose up to three shoes in a really bad Mud. This year, he only lost one, and it was almost time for the farrier to come out and put his summer shoes on anyway, so it wasn’t too bad.
Pretty much, I think, everyone knows about Summer, Fall, Spring, and Winter, and quite a few people have heard of Mud. Stick is a new one on me since I came to New England, as is the seventh season: Long Sleeves And Shorts.
Long Sleeves And Shorts can overlap with several of the other seasons. It almost never overlaps with Winter, not unless you’re talking about tweens and teens, all of whom are indestructible, and none of whom think it’s Cool to dress for the weather. Long Sleeves And Shorts season can overlap with Summer, particularly on the coast. Most frequently, though, it happens in conjunction with Spring, Fall, Stick, and Mud. A certain quality to the air arrives, and people flood out onto the streets sporting a wide range of Long Sleeves and Shorts. Since New England is basically the Fountain of All Preppiness, you often see khaki shorts and rugby shirts (on both men and women). You might see boarder shorts and long-sleeve t-shirts. You see skimpy little running shorts and a long-sleeve quarter-zip technical top in lurid colors never seen elsewhere in nature. You see padded bike shorts, and long-sleeved slinky tops festooned with obscure logos. You see cargo shorts and flannel shirts, or denim shorts with thermal waffle-knit henleys. If it’s particularly chilly, you see the shirts covered up with a zippered vest. When Long Sleeves and Shorts season happens on the coast in summer, you can see shorts paired with a collared shirt and a sweater.
I’ve been in and around New England so long, at this point, that I didn’t even notice Long Sleeves and Shorts season until this past fall, when some friends of mine from Texas came up for a visit. Roy and I suited up for some outing or other – independently, I should add – and rejoined our guests. They stared at us in astonishment. “Long sleeves? And shorts?” they said. “Now we really know we’re in New England.” They were both baffled and amused by this, I think. I suppose that I would have been, too, if I were more recently from Texas.
As it is, it makes perfect sense for me. Long Sleeve and Shorts season is characterized by the exciting phenomenon of having two seasons in one day. Sometimes two seasons in a four-hour period, which it’s been doing lately. You have to dress for both, and this is the compromise. It’s Winter in the morning – it was 34 when I woke up – so you wear the long sleeves. But you know that it’s going to be Summer in very short order – probably by the time I come back from grocery shopping – so you wear the shorts. What’s not to understand about this?
In Texas, it’s not unknown to have both seasons in one day: to wake up to Hot, and then have an arctic front blast through and drop the temperatures to Cool. The difference between Hot and Cool season in Texas can be anything from 101 Fahreneheit to 40, so this is not a trivial swing. The deal is, it doesn’t happen that often, certainly not every day of the week like happens in Long Sleeve and Shorts season in New England. And in Texas it’s completely predictable, often down to the very hour when it will happen. So Texans go off to work and school in their Hot season clothes, and the ones who are paying attention to the forecast in the morning, drag along their huge puffy winter commuter coats, and they’re fine. The ones who weren’t paying attention do high-speed sprints from the building to the car and then sit there for five minutes, turning the heat on full-blast until their bare legs recover their color and feeling.
It doesn’t happen often enough in Texas for there to be a proper season for it. Here, though, I have three choices for the day: waffle henley, rugby shirt, or t-shirt. The shorts are a given.