We are officially in that skinny season between winter and the season called “road repair.” During this period, we residents of the North perform the “removing all memories of winter from our vehicles” ritual — putting coffee-can heaters and mismatched gloves far from us. Recently, I joyfully removed such artifacts from my minivan and other family vehicles.

Most sacred of these items is the emergency heater — a lidded coffee can containing a fat candle, waterproof matches and emergency chocolate. I’ve never needed said heater, but it was a hard winter — there was no chocolate in the can. My husband, a native of the North, rolls his eyes (politely) and assures me that he’s never needed a coffee-can kit in 50 years, which is a really long time. But he doesn’t understand chocolate emergencies. And he wasn’t crawling east on Interstate 94 during Thanksgiving 1983, passing vehicles stranded on the closed westbound side. These cars were filled with people desperate for chocolate and heaters; I’ll never forget their faces. Plus, I hear people in Atlanta would have paid big money for a coffee-can potty when stranded for 18 hours this winter. The coffee-can tradition shall continue in our fleet.

Other artifacts included:

• Black plastic bags and rubber bands, which can be fashioned into boots. This was quite the fashion statement when a friend and I took our kids on a sledding expedition when we were unexpectedly snowbound in Idaho.

• The sleeping bag. Once when we slid off an icy Kentucky road, five of us huddled under a sleeping bag and marched to stay warm until the wrecker came. We also tied some donation-bag blouses around our heads. And sang. This was before YouTube.

• Knee socks, which can be used for mittens. Or as socks at a fast-food playland that mandates foot coverings. It’s been a while since I’ve hauled playland-crazed kids, but I say, “Have the socks and they will come.”

• Real boots, which, it turns out, are generally in the vehicle when needed for wading from the house (like this April, when the Twin Cities was gifted 6 to 12 inches) and generally in the house when needed for wading from the vehicle.

• The collapsible shovel and kitty litter, for use when we get stuck trying to crash through the plow’s snow wall at the end of the driveway. Nice neighbors actually work better than these supplies do for getting unstuck, but neighbors don’t do well stored in the vehicle for long periods.

• Missing gloves. Stocking hats.

• Abandoned coffee mugs, snack containers, books, magazines and papers. (Yippee! Found the missing library book!)

• Miscellaneous. A fake potted plant. (Really?) The missing mop. The missing large bag of baking soda. Hair thingies.

• A sack of clothes to donate. Hmm. Waiting to see if we needed blouses to tie around our heads?

• Fossilized french fries.

This was going to be short. But the list kept getting longer, kinda like the winter of 2013-14. Now, on to dealing with our winter coat collections.


Julie M. Evans, a public-relations consultant and native of Kentucky, has survived 22 Minnesota winters. She blogs at www.juliemevans.wordpress.com.