When I moved to Rochester from New Orleans in 1995, the sunflowers in my backyard turned their yellow heads to face a blue, cloudless sky. That fall, the leaves on the maple trees turned red and yellow and brown and fell at our feet, but the sun stuck around. One October weekend, my husband and I hopped in his car to scout out a grape festival. Everyone kept saying how unseasonably warm it was. We hardly heard them as we scooped gobs of pie directly out of the tin and into our mouths. Standing there in our short sleeves, it seemed the warm weather would never end. Clearly, moving to Western, New York had been a delicious choice.
One October afternoon, a friend came to help me unpack the last of my boxes.
“Where are your coats?” she asked.
After five years in New Orleans, I didn’t have many. I held up my denim jacket, a green raincoat, and a few sweaters.
She shook her head. “You’d better get a good coat. Fast.”
But I ignored her. Because what did she know? Everything was so cozy in our apartment, and the afternoon light never stopped streaming through the stained glass windows of our apartment.
And then it happened.
One morning, I went outside to find everything blanketed in white. Shivering, I brushed off the windshield and hopped inside to turn on the heat. And after work, I drove directly to the nearest mall to buy my first sleeping bag coat.
Let’s be clear. My sleeping bag coat isn’t pretty. It isn’t fashion forward. But once the temperatures fall below 40 degrees, I am never without it. Black and puffy and filled with down, I wear it all the time. While I make breakfast. While I do the dishes. While I run errands.
I have even slept in my sleeping bag coat. Several years ago, we had a major ice storm. Trees cracked and power lines went down. People lost power for over a week. It was mid-April, and I could see my breath in my house.
Recently, I realized sleeping bag coats are kind of a Rochester thing.
Everywhere I go, there they are.
In the grocery store.
In a restaurant.
Out for a walk.
At the pharmacy counter.
And again at the pharmacy.
I know some ladies will argue that fashion should always come first. In my experience, these women are usually in their 20s. They often live in warm weather climates and wear bikinis with 5” hoochie-mamma heels.
In Rochester, we have to be pragmatic.
Because when it is cold for nearly six months of the year, we have to wear boots.
And hats. And scarves. And mittens.
We do the best we can.
We really do.
Cut us some slack.
Eventually it will stop snowing. The daffodils and tulips will dare to poke their heads out of the cold hard earth, and the trees will decide to sprout leaves. Things will green up. The thermometer will register above 60 degrees. Then, and only then, will I dare to step out of my sleeping bag coat.
What is the signature look in your neck of the woods?
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