The divine suffering

For some reason I always assume people have a collective knowledge they gained during childhood. Most of us long ago learned about the chill that runs up the spine as we dash through a sprinkler. We know the smell of fresh-cut grass. We know the flutter that jumps through our hearts when we are sitting in a school classroom in October or November, staring out the window, and spy the first snowflake of the winter. I always thought certain experiences were common to every kid…

Today was a rare rainy day. Some of my co-workers pulled out their fall clothing. I complimented one of my co-workers on her cute jacket as we walked to the office library.

“Thanks,” she said. “But don’t get too close. It smells.”

I gave her a puzzled look.

“Apparently something happens to wool where it stinks when it gets wet,” she said.

“Oh, right,” I said. “Yeah, I remember my mittens always smelling so bad when I was a kid.”

I turned to see her smile of recognition, but instead I saw a pair of blank blue eyes. It was as though I hadn’t even talked. My mind fumbled. Then, it kickstarted itself.

“You’re from Texas, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “So I don’t have much experience with mittens.”

“When we were kids, we’d play in the snow and come inside with wet mittens,” I said. “If the mittens were wool, they would smell so bad, and then your hands would smell. It was terrible.”

I can’t believe there are millions of kids out there who have never had the experience of trying to tug off a scarf, a parka, long underwear, snow pants, and puffy snow boots so that they can race to the bathroom before their bladder explodes. That divine suffering is such a formative experience.

We’ll be putting our wool away tomorrow as it’s supposed to be 90 degrees, but the forecast in my hometown calls for snow. I wish I could see it.