Thursday, February 19, 2009

Debi: Urban winter

Winter in the city is a lot different from winter in the country or even the sprawling suburbs. I grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee, a place with no sidewalks or public transportation, where even the kids who lived across the street from the elementary school took the bus. Winter meant going everywhere in something powered by gasoline.

Here in Evanston, which may as well be Chicago for its dense population and pedestrian focus, the weather takes on entirely new meaning. Ronni's school has no buses for neighborhood children, and the parking lot has room for perhaps twenty cars. The streets surrounding the school have little parking available during school hours, and everyone lives within less than a mile radius of the school itself. As a result, the vast majority of the students there get to school on foot.

This is something I love about it, but also something that requires a whole set of gear I never anticipated. Sammi is still too small to make that six block trek through the snow at anything approaching a reasonable speed, and so it is crucial that we have a way of transporting her on our journey. With clear sidewalks, a stroller works beautifully -- and becomes like a rolling luggage rack too, holding backpacks and extra shoes and lunchboxes and random necessities.

With snowy sidewalks, all bets are off.

Sidewalks are cleared by the residents of the houses that face them, and not all of those residents are imagining a stroller passing through. Handicap ramps from the sidewalk to the street at each corner often only reveal a shoveled path wide enough for the narrowest feet. Hoisting a stroller -- and its 30-plus-pounds of cargo -- over the snowbank there is not an option. When it snows, I am left without the ability to push Sammi to school in the stroller. What's a city mom to do?

  1. Thank heavens for the soft carrier made by CatBirdBaby. I have about five pounds of leeway before Sammi gets too big for it, and I hope by then she'll be able to walk. When the snow is too deep for the stroller but not deep enough yet for option #2 (below), I strap Sammi to my back in this carrier, and we stomp off to school. That's her in there on a hike last summer -- imagine this but with both of us in heavy winter coats, hats, mittens, and her in snowpants and boots.

  2. Remember that sled you pulled up the hill hundreds of times as a kid, only to throw yourself onto it on your belly and slide down again? The big plastic one with the rope tied to the front? That's Sammi's chariot when the snow is so deep that I can't bear to trudge through it with 30 pounds on my back. She has learned to grip the sides tightly as I drag her over unshoveled sidewalks, across snowy yards and even -- scraping the bottom as we go -- across one busy intersection, depending on the mercy of motorists seeing a five-foot-tall woman in snow gear pulling a very overstuffed preschooler in a red sled.
All this is so that I can get my kids to school on foot. I could drive, but it's six blocks. SIX! Driving is just too ridiculous for me to bear. As a result, we've invested in good boots, long underwear, a decent carrier, and no small order of cojones. Be kind to your pedestrian parents everywhere!!!

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