Warm comforts bring relief to cold January

January 05, 1995|By JACQUES KELLY

It never fails that the new flower catalog arrives the same day the garden hose freezes and splits.

It's a Baltimore January, a time of dry, flaking skin and a variety of weather that persists about a month. It's awful but it's over soon.

The season of dry, brittle weather has its compensations, well, sort of. Just look at the January sunsets. They are the loveliest of the year, with the western horizons bathed in perfect indigos and oranges.

The moon is clear and defined. The stars and planets just shout out at you. Even the city night-time air smells of burning oak and ash in fireplaces and cast-iron stoves. And for some reason, the whole place quiets down, the way it gets in July.

Call it the peace of the mercury's extremities.

These January mornings aren't bad either, provided your furnace works well and someone near and dear gave you flannel sheets and pajamas during the holiday season.

It's the best time of the year for a hot breakfast of oatmeal and cream of wheat and maybe a slice or two of bacon if you are not terrified of fat consumption.

It's about the only time of the year when I can stomach hot chocolate, sweet sherry or rum. Add to that list warm custard, bread pudding and fruit cocktail.

Speaking of waistlines, this is the time of year for hiding your fat.

Everyone seems to be complaining of putting on weight during the holidays.

What better excuse to dig into the innermost reaches of the closet and get out those itchy wools and expandable flannels and stretchy cottons, and wear layers and layers of them.

Put this in a favorable light -- you are getting extra wear out of old clothes, even if they are two or more sizes above what your vanity would like.

Think of the wear and tear you are saving on your thin clothes.

This is a great time of the year for winter dreams, thoughts of a beach chair on warm sands just off the boardwalk or a lush June garden full of pinks, whites and purples.

It's a time when I make lists of all the things I want to get done during the year.

Even if one or two get accomplished and crossed off my tally, I figure something positive's happened.

This is the time for kitchen mice. They've been treated to a mild fall, but now they have to -- indoors and invade boxes of Wheaties and bags of rice.

My favorite mouse story of recent days concerns the house on Lafayette Avenue where the little Mickeys and Minnies got into a fruit cake wrapped in silver foil.

The owner just watched in amazement as the aluminum paper bobbed up and down as these furry creatures romped and dined on citron and nuts.

I know people are just waiting for a blast of ice or snow.

But the thing about really cold January weather is that it can be so dry and bone smashing as to be just too low in temperature to snow.

That will come toward the end of the month when the mercury inches up a bit.

Then we'll miss the low humidity of the January tundra and curse the arthritic dampness of the early February thaw.

And after the rush and -- of December, January arrives like a welcome vacation from parties, wrapping paper, bad carols and tension.

In the west of Ireland, they call Epiphanytide (Jan. 6) the Christmas of the Women, because the trials and stress of the season have come to an end for those who have done the real work of the five weeks lately ended.

It's the time of the year when nobody expects you to paint a room, clean out the garage or cellar or clean and vacuum.

Why wash a car now?

Forget it.

Wait until spring.

And while everybody seems to be complaining a head or chest cold, there is a bright side to seasonal maladies.

Call in sick, indulge yourself with hot tea and other liquids, turn off all televisions and radios and read.

January colds and flus, though nasty, bring a certain dispensation. No matter that you have just taken off the past 10 days for the long Christmas-New Year's holiday, it's OK to add on a few more days.

What boss could challenge this as a misuse of sick time?

It is indeed that time of the year.

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