I am sure that you do too. It seems like the weather is all we have in common, some days. No matter what else is happening in the world around us, we all look skyward and wonder what the day will bring. As my children get older, the weather has taken a greater place in our communications. Everybody wonders if they should bring a sweater.
Will it rain on our parade?
In a world that feels pretty shaky, the one thing every single person on this planet needs to know is how the sky is going to treat us. Sometimes, this is a matter of life or death. Usually, it just makes the difference between comfortable clothing and irritation. The key to weather discussion is that everyone has a stake in it, even children. Also, it connects generations and divided loyalties like no other topic.
Your Morning Weather Report
Every school day starts the same way. First of all, I drag myself out of bed, my internal toddler screaming at the injustice of being forced from my bed. Stumbling to the kiddos’ rooms, I stand outside the doors, shaking myself alert and forcing a smile. I burst into the rooms and throw on the light. “Good Morning!” I sing in a voice I hope is annoying enough to rouse a response. I bounce around waiting for the first question of the day. It is always and without fail: “What’s the weather like today?”
Usually, I am prepared for this question. I whip out my phone and check my three weather apps. I summarize the findings for my little sleepyheads. “It’s super cold and windy!” or “Boots and mittens today!” Having advance warning of the temperature and wind conditions is certainly helpful because otherwise we waste time haggling over sock thickness. If I forget to check before I wake up the sleeping dragons, chaos ensues.
Aside from the practical considerations of fleece layering, the state of the skies has long been the go-to topic with my grandmother. She is in her nineties, and for the past fifteen years or so, most of my conversations with her have been dominated by reciting the temperatures and the probability of rainfall in our respective cities. I used to feel frustrated with this because I wanted our relationship to be closer. It felt like we were dancing around real topics rather than engaging in deep conversations neither of us wanted to begin.
Lately, I have come to change my mind about this point. While we still chat about road conditions and sunblock in astonishingly deep detail, I have tried to see the world from her perspective. She has never used a computer, and she has vision problems that interfere with reading and watching television. Her worldview began shrinking just as mine was expanding. She won’t care about my social media stories, and she has fewer and fewer daily activities of her own to discuss. Also, she is not someone who will dish about her medical life. As a result, her general daily life topic list is shorter than mine, and half the topics on my list seem like nonsense to her. But, she knows how hard it is to make a four-year-old wear snowpants. Therefore, we can always talk about that.
On This, We Agree
Right now, there is a sharp divide in the country. For many of us, this divide deepens within our own circles as we embrace ideas that prove opposite to what our family or friends believe. Also, the list of “safe” conversational topics is shrinking. Soon, it seems all we will be able to talk about is the weather. To this I say: FINE.
To begin, we can talk about weather with anyone. Got an ornery uncle who likes ice fishing? Chat him up about temperatures and spring melt. Babysitting your insanely athletic niece? Ask about how bad the rain has to be before the soccer coaches cancel the game. There is infinite variety in the way the air and water heat and cool our planet, much as there is infinite variety in how each of us experience it. Everyone has a story about that big snow storm, that crazy heatwave, or the great flood that destroyed the garage. Are all these stories interesting? No. But while I may disagree with your ethical, moral and political views – we can still agree that high humidity wrecks our hair and is, therefore, terrible. It gives us common ground. Maybe it will be a place to start.
Which Way The Wind Blows
In the not so distant future, my elementary school aged kiddos will be teens who probably will not want to tell me anything about their lives. Anticipating this, my mischievous self started making lots of weather based in-jokes. Consequently, we make fun of boot-eating mud puddles and Toronto (torrential) rain. Since the way the sky treats us is the one universal, I want to seed extra connections with my little gang because that might tether us through tougher times. Also, sharing weather is a way of sharing the world.
Another look into the future – I imagine myself tucked in my big house in the little Vermont woods, video chatting with my thirty-year-old daughter who is pretending not to be impatient as she is taking my call between work events. I will want nothing more than to connect with her, and all I will be able to think to tell her is that we have had less snow than last year, but we still have more than Williston – does she know why? She will smile quickly and tell me that it is raining in Seattle – again. We will laugh. It may seem superficial and trivial, but we will be laughing together. Even if it takes mundane platitudes about atmospheric conditions to laugh with my kid, I will take it.
I’m going to go call my grandma now. She won’t believe we got two feet of snow in two days!