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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Once (Frost)Bitten, Twice Shy: Ode to Toes


I’ve been asked if I’ve been frostbitten.

And because I’ve been asked, and in accordance and as required by the laws governing the State of Minnesota, I must now recount a personal experience.

Ahem.

I’ve frozen the majority of my fingers, my cheek (the one on my face) and my left ear, but ya can’t tell by looking.

And I’ve frozen all ten toes. 

It was a brittle, January morning, a Sunday morning.  The last section of the newspaper is dropped, thuddingly, in the driveway at 4:30, and by 5:00 I am out and ready.  A snowmobile suit, hat, scarf, mittens – and my mother’s fashion boots.  For cryin’ out loud, my mother’s fashion boots! Fourteen years old and convinced that they looked better than the bunny boots I should’ve been wearing…

It is a fateful decision.

In less than an hour, my feet are horribly cold.  In two hours, every step is like walking on someone else’s feet. 

The route takes three hours.

I am hobbling when I return.  In the trailer’s kitchen, my toes bright white and hard to the touch, my mother eases them into a bucket of tepid water. 

The pain is excruciating.  Tears run down my face.

“Well,” my dad opines, a steaming cup of coffee in his hand, “they’re not black, and that’s a good thing.”

He puts his hand in the water, tests the temperature.

“You never rub a frozen bit of skin, you never put it in hot water,” he says, taking a careful sip.  “And you never lay down in the cold.”

He takes another sip.  “Yep,” he says, peering into the bucket of frozen toes in front of him, proof , no doubt, that his first born is not as clever as he had originally hoped.  “You get tired in the cold, and then you get warm, real warm.  I’ll just take a little nap, you think to yourself, and then WHAM!” – he slams his hand down on the kitchen table – “You’re dead!  You never wake up!”

He sips his coffee.  “Yup,” he says softly into his cup, “As long as you’re pain, you’re going to be okay.”

He stands, hands me a half-full cup of hot coffee, heads back to the living room.  “Take care of your feet,” he calls over his shoulder, “and your feet will take care of you.”

I gaze into the cup and see the reflection of a girl too dumb to take care of her feet.

“Dad!” I yell. 

He pokes his head back into the kitchen.

“How long will my toes hurt?”

“Ohh,” he says, rubbing the side of his jaw with the back of his hand.  “Coupla hours, easy.  But they’re never going to be the same.”

And they’re not.

But ya can’t tell by looking.  

41 comments:

Shelly said...

I offer you my sympathy, albeit without the support of a relatable experience. The closest I get is burning my toes on the too hot sand at the beach.

Glad you still have all 10 of yours- and the fashion boots made me really laugh because it's just what I would have done!

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

There is nothing a pair of fashion boots can do for a snowmobile suit..you might as well have gone for the bunny boots. So glad you still have your toes even if they are never going to be the same.

Big Fat Gini said...

A few years ago, I went to Chicago. In March. And you know, here in Texas, it's already 80 degrees in March and so I guess I wasn't all that prepared. Because, after a double-decker bus tour of the city, my face and my legs were red and chapped and wind burned.

So I came home and vowed to never travel north of the Mason Dixon line ever again.

Ach du lieber said...

There are NO pretty toes, frostbite or not, so as long as you got em and they help balance you as you walk, you're golden. At least in my opinion.

Joshua said...

Having suffered heat exhaustion as a kid, the same is true for not tolerating warmer temperatures forever after that, too.

Pearl said...

Shelly, the funny thing is that Delores is right: there is nothing that fashion boots can do to help a snowmobile suit. It was pure vanity, often a precursor to disaster...

Delores, I've always regretted wearing those boots. If my mother had been up when I put them on, she would never have allowed it...

Big Fat Gini, ahh. Chapped. Someone should've dipped you in oil when you showed up!

Ach du lieber, for feet, they're pretty nice. :-) But once it gets good and cold, the pain returns...

Joshua, is that right? Man, it's dangerous out there!

The Jules said...

Builds character, does having toesicles.

The tip with toes, when going out in the snow in unsuitable footwear, is count 'em in, count 'em out.

Both numbers should be roughly equal.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Ah, kindred spirit. I've frostbitten my cheek, two fingers and a few toes walking home from school. It's crap how we were treated as kids.

Hannah Denski said...

We all fall fashion victims some day... one way or another... :)

Daisy said...

I woke up to snow this morning, so took your story "to heart" and wore my heavy duty, serious, not dressy, boots!

Not! I am sitting indoors sipping hot coffee!

Leenie said...

One of the main lines in a dad's job description: deliver proverbs, adages, axioms, and maxims while the mom applies the treatment.

bill lisleman said...

your dad had a dramatic method of giving advice - WHAM.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Ah, memories. I had frostbitten fingers when I was five (took off my mittens on the way home from school and couldn't get them back on), and I've come sooo close with my toes, because of fashion boots. A whole lot of Minnesota women will identify with this story!

CarrieBoo said...

Ouch! And LOLOL! Your dad... LOL.

Sioux said...

When it occasionally gets 0 degrees here in Missouri, we whine. How about some crackers and cheese with that whine? (I guess in Minnesota it would be Pinot Grigio popsicles, huh?)

Joanne said...

Vanity, thy name is woman. I froze my toes because I was too vain to wear my boots to school. Spent the day with wet toes in thawing wet shoes (I wasn't about to tell anyone), and then repeated the freeze on the way home. It was a two mile walk to/from junior high! Fortunately, my mother met me at the back door and stuck my in the bath tub to thaw. Her evidence--my boots in the closet.

L-Kat said...

I think it is a rite of passage for Minnesotans to experience frostbite.

Perpetua said...

Glad it wasn't even worse, Pearl. It all sounds so frighteningly exotic from our temperate little island.

Tom G. said...

“You never rub a frozen bit of skin, you never put it in hot water” - We were always taught the same thing. I think this is one way to tell the natives from the transplants. Just check the temp on the bucket of water they are thawing their frost bitten toes in.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Pearl, I can identify with the pain involved, having frozen my fingers putting a water-pump on a car at -40F out on the highway for an emergency repair. The fingers always hurt when they get cold. Frozen stuff hurts in NW Ontario too even if we smartly thaw them out in cool water... Nothing quite like learning about frost 'bite'. ":)

vanilla said...

Fourteen. Precursor to womanhood, when fashion trumps practical. Glad you still have all your toes.

Linda O'Connell said...

BUNNY BOOTS! I lived in Alaska and wore them too. I know what they are.

Ms Sparrow said...

I remember the pain of frozen toes!
I've been lucky that it's never happened since. Keep those toe-toes warm and cozy!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Oh Lord, I don't even like to think about getting so cold as a kid, my frozen clothes would stuck to my body. Never had frostbite, but got as cold as I ever hope to get. To paraphrase Scarlett, "I'll nevah be frozen again."

JohnD said...

Rhonda gets chill blains in winter. They used to be really bad, but she now starts a course of fish oil capsules at the beginning of winter and that seems to help.

Anyhoo-do-dee, Me! When I was a younker I used to trap rabbits in a frost-laden field in my bare feet. If my feet got really cold I found a fresh cow pat and stood in the steaming cow pat until they were nice and warm again. Of course I used to rinse them in a rain barrel before I went back into the house - breaking the ice off the top of the water firs.

Jono said...

The cold got my ears and nose and a spot or two on the cheeks (face). It's just the price we pay for being this far north and not having enough respect for the cold. And being young and not as smart as we think we are.

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! Your noze wuz froze and your toze wuz froze?! My heart goes out, my ears did once (many times) and I remember sobbing. As for today, we had some sunshine. But who knows about tomorrow, this weather is snafu. Arse. Roth x

Gigi said...

And that is just another reason why I will always, always live in the South.

Eva Gallant said...

You are fortunate you didn't lose those toes!! Love your Dad! He's a lot like you I suspect, or vice-versa.

Barb said...

Oh, yes, I've felt that pain - multiple times. I'm a slow learner.

jenny_o said...

Ohhh, a hard lesson with life-long repercussions ... Do you wear your bunny boots now, missy?

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Yes, what percentage of Minnesotans have the tell-tale signs of frostbite on their cheeks? I am surprised that you wore even fashion boots. As a teen, I refused to wear boots, and a snowmobile suit only when riding a snowmobile. Hats and mittens were likewise rarely in sight. It's a wonder I still have all digits.

diane b said...

Ouch that must have been awfully painful. I'm glad I don't live in such a cold place.

Jo-Anne's Rambling said...

Where I live it doesn't get cold enough to freeze any part of our bodies but I have burnt my toes on the hot cement when I was silly enough to walk outside without thongs on.........lol

Belle said...

I remember many times in Canada when fashion boots were useless, but I didn't get frostbite. I'm really sorry you did! Your dad always cracks me up.

NellieVaughn said...

I fell asleep in the snow once. No, I am not terribly bright. If it wasn't for my friends, I would have stayed asleep.

Tempo said...

Being a desert dweller I dont have a clue but I thought if you froze anything it fell off and you just had to do without it for ever?

NotesFromAbroad said...

I lived in the NorthEast USA most of my life and I always thought that your toes would turn black and fall off too.
I do know about not falling asleep in the snow though .. duh .. lol.
Oh and I know not to eat yellow snow. regardless of what your cousin tells you.

Say hello to your toes Pearl, they are attached to a lovely person.

Jadzia@Toddlerisms said...

I grew up in the U.P. (and also lived in Duluth), and I actually got my tongue stuck to the metal handle of the schoolhouse door once! Imagine the pain when the morning bell went off and I had to just, um, TEAR AWAY.

Do not miss.

Diane said...

Hmmm . . . your dad sounds more and more like my dad. Has he ever been in Southern Alberta for extended periods of time??? Best frostbite story ever - My Gramma Stringam was the local 'nurse'. A small girl was brought in to her who was nearly frozen to death. Dad said that her feet clopped together like wooden blocks as they carried her in. Gramma worked all night with her, rubbing her hands and feet in . . . get this . . . coal oil. She lost the nails off her little toes and little fingers. And that was all. I've never been bitten that badly, though I've had chilblains in my fingers which freaked me out the first time!

Susan in the Boonies said...

You come from hardy stock.
Your people are tough: but they have survived.
It's why they've survived.

(Really? They've never been the same???)