50 Degrees

I remember this one time from when I was a kid.  I don’t remember exactly how young I was but I was young…I hadn’t started school yet, I think, so that would’ve made me four.  Let’s say I was four years old.

Anyway, I was four years old, and I wanted to go outside and play.  And this was in the early spring, say late March or early April, and I grew up in the middle of Michigan.  I remember sitting on my knees, on the back of our sofa so I could look out through the picture window in our living room.  The day was sunny, but the sunlight was thin in the way that early spring sunshine in Michigan is thin – not the full, daffodil yellow of summer sun that lights up the sky in a depthless deep blue…but a paler, lighter yellow that gives the sky the classic “sky blue” light color that lightens to a sort of whitish-blue at the horizon.

I looked out at the pine trees and green picnic table in the center of our driveway turn-around loop, and then looked at my sandpile – I didn’t have a formal sand box, I had a pile of leftover sand from the contractors that had laid the bricks for our fireplace and chimney, probably a year and a half before this particular day.

I wanted to play in my sandpile.  My Tonka trucks were out in it waiting for me, and everything.  And mounted on the side of the house was a thermometer, angled so it faced in through the picture window.  It was a small-ish, round thermometer; plasticky in that early 1970’s way, and the black needle was pointing squarely at the number 50.

And I was young enough that I had no idea what the temperature numbers meant in terms of feeling warm or cold.  I mean, I knew that zero was winter, and the hottest I’d ever seen it was 80 – Michigan, remember – but the numbers in between?  Not a clue.  I didn’t know if I needed my red windbreaker, or a coat, or no jacket at all.

So I asked my mom, “Mom, is fifty cold outside?”  I had to yell it over my shoulder; she was in the kitchen.  I don’t remember her exact answer…it was something to the effect that she didn’t know, and that different people felt temperatures differently.  Or something else equally unhelpful.

I didn’t go outside to play that day.


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