Sunday, February 24, 2008

Just another suburban dwelling illness

When I was growing up I heard the term "Cabin Fever" a lot at this time of year.

Usually it was someone trying to describe why the Kool-Aid mom was in a funk.

I always wondered why they called it that: CABIN FEVER. It sounded so ... rustic; so quaint.

I suppose it must have something to do with a simpler time when log homes dotted the landscape and a quick trip to the corner store took four days and a team of horses (uphill, both ways of course). Once the snow came, going out into the world just wasn’t an option.

But how, one might wonder, has such a quaint term survived as equine ingenuity evolved into combustion engines, and cabins in the woods became a horseshoe drive of split-level ranches tucked neatly into bedroom communities?

We have all manner of technologically-enhanced gadgets that make withstanding winter's worst effortless. Aside from the elemental snow, ice and cold, there's really nothing that society hasn't tamed in winter.

For example, there's really no such thing as seasonal produce. Want fresh strawberries in the dead of winter? Someone's growing them somewhere. They're never more than a truck ride away.

There's so much to do out in the world during all seasons, especially with our modern all-wheel-drive and all-hours-merchants, and yet Cabin Fever persists. How is that possible you ask?

You might try and get scientific; point to the sky and start talking about the length of the day or the angle of the sun. You might say it's the light we lack.

But you'd be wrong.

Because as sure as I am about the ennui of winter, I am also positively positive I know what REALLY causes cabin fever.


Children cause cabin fever.

You thought their germy little mitts spread only the common cold and minor cases of typhoid, didn't you?

As I look at my firstborn, dressed in a tutu and cleats as she dusts the house with her cache of tiny toys, it becomes apparent how my sloth has settled in firmer with each passing year since her arrival.

"Let's go for a walk," I say, amplifying manufactured excitement. "We'll get all dressed up, put The Champ into your old bear suit, and we'll walk into the village for some cocoa!"

"No. It's too cold. We can do that when it's spring," she answers.

Children, with their slow-motivating natures and their inability to withstand any one activity for more than the time it takes the commercial to change – not to mention the inevitable happenstance that once you get them dressed in their infinite layers of socks and thermals and snow pants and winter jackets and five-fingered mittens and hats and scarves, someone is going to have to PEE - are festering Petri dishes of the bacillus that causes the mind-wasting illness, Cabin Fever.

Eventually I end up grateful she’s not the outdoors type. By February's end the idea of corralling two kids in the muck and slop for a wintry beverage she won't drink anyway, not to mention having to keep track of hats and gloves and boots on the trek over to the shop, makes me an immovable object, staking claim to my favorite end of the couch nearest the woodstove.
I am grateful, yet guilty.

While others are getting out into the world - breathing in really cold air and exercising their minds and bodies - we are listening to bad television and trashing the house. The most exercise I get in any given week is from climbing the stairs to wash the previous week’s worth of laundry.

It's pathetic.

That's why I decided this was the weekend to turn off the TV, forget the linens and head for the slopes.

That's right, folks. We're going skiing.

(OK ... You can stop laughing now.)

They have cabins on the mountain right? I bet they have fireplaces, too.

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