I always assumed that hibernation took a lot of advanced planning. I guess that’s why I never tried it before now. It was too much work. I’d seen squirrels gathering acorns for months on end just to get ready for the big event. I’d heard that bears worked tirelessly to double their body fat and wandered hither and yon to find the cave that was just right for their epic winter slumber. And these animals had it in their blood. It was part of their genetic plan – “You will hibernate”. I wasn’t even sure a human could pull it off. How could a person possibly stay inside for all those months, deprived of light, and breeze, and all other natural elements that make a human feel…human. I figured it must take stamina beyond all stamina and a will made of steel and Styrofoam and Hostess Twinkies and other substances built to last throughout all time and space.
But then, out of nowhere, I did it. I didn’t even plan a thing. I hibernated by accident. As a matter of fact I didn’t even realize it was happening at first.
I think it all started the day of the first big snow. Somehow despite the downpour I just assumed I could pull off my usual routine. “What’s our adventure for today?” Sage asked when we woke that morning. “We’ll hit the hill for some sledding, down some hot chocolate, build a snow fort, paint with icicles, and the maybe zoom down the driveway using these cookie sheets as skis.” I really was embracing the turn in weather. It was going to be epic.
Even when I discovered that I did not own a pair of gloves, or own a car that would agree to drive through snow, I said, “No worries, my hands will freeze, we will walk. We will not be deterred.” And even when I discovered that my daughter did not have legs long enough to actually walk through a foot of snow or a sled sturdy enough to escort her through the very substance that it was invented to slide upon I still ventured forth. “We will make a snowman,” I said, forgetting that one cannot sculpt snow without gloves. “We will look for tracks,” I offered, ignoring the fact that no animal in his right mind would be out in this terrible weather. “We will have a snowball fight,” I said, forgetting that a three-year-old who has been raised by pacifist parents would be confused and traumatized when hit in the face by a piece of ice thrown by her mother. “We will go back home and make hot chocolate,” I said. “Yay,” sniffed my daughter.
And so we went back inside. And it was nice. It was warm. My lack of protective clothing was no longer an issue. I felt prepared in this place. I knew how to navigate the five rooms of my apartment. I could make this work. Maybe the great outdoors was overrated anyway.
The next morning I felt guilty. Maybe I should try again. After all, I wanted my daughter to grow up loving the elements. But the driveway was not plowed, and the snowsuit was still wet from the day before, and my daughter begged not to go out. And that was really the excuse I needed to call it quits on the snow. Sure I wanted to raise a hearty kid but maybe I could start that project next year. Maybe this year I could gently expose her…like maybe from the comfort of the couch. “Let’s bring the snow in here,” I declared and leaned out the window with a soup ladle. I caught a few flakes, we studied them, we watched them melt. My daughter was truly wowed. There, no more guilt, she’d had an up close look at some snow. I was off the hook.
The next day, when the snow continued to fall I didn’t even make a move for my winter coat. I reached my hand out the window, ripped off some icicles and we dipped them in jell-o powder as we sat under a blanket in bed. “Isn’t winter wonderful!” I cooed as we licked off the mounds of pink sugar.
I was enjoying this whole indoor winter thing. The next day I went to the store and bought two months worth of supplies. A few days later I managed to stay in my pajamas all day. “I’m good at this,” I thought to myself. “I bet I could pull this off tomorrow too.” And I did. I did it that next day, and the day after that, and the day after that too.
My next move was to stop showering; after all it is hard to shower when you refuse to take off your pajamas. I grew a beard – or at least that little extra facial hair that some women of Eastern European descent get when they loose the will to pluck. My hair got frizzy; almost bear-like. I began getting most of my exercise walking back and forth between the kitchen and the bed. Sleep, eat, sleep eat, became my inner monologue.
My daughter went out, of course. My husband took her on all sorts of adventures; and when she was home I entertained the hell out of her. We put on plays, made movies, did every craft ever invented, read picture books till my throat ran dry, made up songs, took imaginary vacations. But somewhere in the back of my mind, even in my most engaged moments there was that little voice chanting “sleep more, eat more.”
At night, after she’d go to bed, I’d just kind of walk around grunting.
“How was your day?” my husband would ask.
“Ummmm, huh,” I’d say “are you talking about yesterday, or the day before that, or that one day from last week? They all seem so similar…is it getting dark in here?”
“Yes honey, it’s night.”
“Huh, where am I? Is it spring yet? What’s that smell? Is that me? Do we have any meat in the house, I’m hungry!.”
“It’s okay honey, go back to bed. You’re just confused.”
And so I shuffled about. I ignored the windows all together now. I could hear the plows grinding down the street. I just assumed the snow was probably up to the roof by now.
But then out of nowhere, I woke one day to the sound of a bird. I thought it was a car alarm at first, but when I listened harder I found that the sound was more gentle, far more optimistic. I stumbled over to the window… I saw drops of water trickling down the glass. It was the icicles… they were melting. And that’s when I looked down at my matted slippers, at my hairy legs, at my ragged unwashed pajamas. It was a terrifying sight. “Quick” I shrieked, “Someone start the shower.” (I had forgotten how). I washed, I tweezed, I shaved, I even applied lotion. I dusted off a pair of daytime clothing.
“You look stunning,” said my husband, as I emerged wearing a pair of jeans and a thermal top.
My daughter was befuddled. “Where’s your uniform?” she asked.
“That wasn’t a uniform,” I corrected. “Those were just mommy’s pajamas.”
I cried on my way out the door. I was simply overcome. The possibilities were endless. The feeling of sun on my pasty white skin was almost orgasmic. As Sage and I walked off the front porch and into the slush each step felt like a revelation. I moved like Neil Armstrong on the moon. If I had had a flag I would have planted it right there on the front lawn, just to mark the occasion. If I had had a microphone I would have made a speech, “Hello world, I am back from my hibernation. It was a terrible mistake. People are not meant to disappear when the going gets tough. I will not let it happen again.” But I did not have a flag or a microphone; I planted no memorabilia, I gave no speeches. I simply took my daughter’s hand, pointed in the direction of the nearest park and shouted, “LET”S GO!”