|So that you won't catch cold!|
But that's not what this post is about. As I was saying, it is still summer, but the Estonians think otherwise. So when it is warm and sunny out, they seem puzzled. "Kui imelik, päris suvine ilm," somebody remarked to me yesterday, "how strange, what nice summery weather." I answered "Jah," but what I was really thinking was, "Of course it feels like summer, it is still summer, damnit!"
I should get a t-shirt made up that says "Sept. 22" on the front and "Autumn Equinox" on the back. I don't think anybody would believe me though. For Estonians, fall begins on Sept. 1, the first day of school. End of story.
Clothing at this time of the year never suffices. It is either too cold or too warm. A cool breeze hits you as you walk outside so you put on a light jacket. By the time you are walking back from the store in the warm sun you notice that you are sweating. You take off the jacket and another breeze hits you and all of a sudden you are cold again. It makes me wonder if I should get one of those full-body track suits that middle-aged Italian guys wear. No matter the season, you are always comfortable!
A glance out the window provides no useful information. At the first instant of a cool breeze, Estonian mothers begin swaddling their children, a practice that will continue until May or so of next year, when they just might let their child leave the house his or her head uncovered. This morning I spied the neighbor boy collecting firewood wearing a thermal hat, an insulated jacket, and boots. It looked as if it was about to snow! But when I stepped outside, except for a cool breeze blowing off the lake, it felt like t-shirt weather. It's still summer, damnit!
The official explanation for all the swaddling and bundling that goes on in Estonia is that it's done, "so that you won't catch cold." I am not so sure I believe in this. Is it really true that even slight exposure to cool weather will make one ill? I feel just as bad sweating feverishly in a heavy jacket on a warm late summer day as I do getting a few goosebumps in a t-shirt. It seems that there is no good option: both approaches could make one sick.
But these are questions, and the Estonians don't like to be interrogated about their customs. Things just are as they are, and that means that even if it is 18 degrees Celsius outside (64 degrees Fahrenheit), you better put on your woolen cap and winter jacket, "so that you won't catch cold."
Still, I feel bad for those little Estonian boys and girls who are forced to wear winter clothing deep into spring. Even on hot late April days, when the sewers groan with melted ice and snow, days on which most people would feel fine just putting on a light, long-sleeved shirt, you can catch sight of some poor youth trudging down the street in hat, scarf, jacket, gloves, thermal pants and boots, and holding the hand of an overprotective female relative.
This may not be the Arctic, but sometimes it sure feels like it.