Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Breadbags and Sneakers

Some of you, especially those of you who grew up in South Carolina, will recognize the significance of this image instantly. 

For those of you who don't, let me explain:

We'd get snow about once a year in SC, and it usually didn't stick around.  A lucky schoolchild would get a single snow day every other year.  And even with the snow days that they get, the main activity for the day would be wishing that there was enough snow to go sledding.  The warm blacktop just didn't often allow the snow to stick, except in the higher altitudes in the county (where the buses simply couldn't safely go if there was ice).

So approximately every three or four years, there would be enough snow for sledding. 

The purchace of expensive shoes specific to playing in the snow, for a kid who would outgrow them  long before the next chance to wear them?  Silly in the extreme.

Mom's 3-step Solution:

- Put on thickest socks available (two pair if possible)
- Overlay socks with plastic bread bags
- Put shoes over the bread bags

The feeling of the bread bags in the shoes was predictably awful.  Your foot would inevitably slide inside the shoe, and the bag would bunch up uncomfortably. And it looked terrible. 

The purpose, however, was not the fashion statement (although I could certainly see some designer with a sense of humor bringing back a modern interpretation for a laugh).  The purpose was not even to keep the cold out through layers.

The purpose was to provide a water seal between the cold, wet snow and the warm, dry foot.

And it never worked. 

The bag, for the brief period when it was working perfectly, would seal the footsweat inside the bag, which would then get cold.  Then the bag would tear.  And/or the bag would get overtopped, and sloppy snow would drip down inside your sock. The bag would get bunched up under your heel, and the sock would get drenched from the slush. 

Nevertheless, the breadbag-and-shoe combination was irrevocably linked for me with cold weather, wishing and hoping for snow. And the delight that comes when you get to engage in real snow play. 

And with the pile of dripping socks, shoes and plastic bags dripping puddles in the entryway, while we warmed the frozen feet by the fire, cup of marshmallowed-hot chocolate in hand.

Breadbag snowshoes, which by all measures are a failed functional element of cold-weather survival in the South, are a memory of deep satisfaction and joy for me. 

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