01/30/2014 11:43 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2014

LA's Cold Spell

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It's -26 degrees in Chicago, there's a polar vortex affecting much of the U.S. and it is 70 degrees in LA where I now live. Angelenos panic when the LA weatherman warns that we are expecting a cold spell -- weather in the 50's. While the rest of the country is dealing with dangerously cold weather conditions, schools are closed, services are totally disrupted and transportation has come to a halt, we are complaining that we have to put on a sweater. It's embarrassing and the rest of the country is making fun of us.

I lived in New York for the first 45 years of my life and I vividly remember the frigid cold, snow and ice. I am ecstatic that the sky is blue and the sun shines (almost) every day in Southern California and I never take it for granted. I feel empathy for the rest of the U.S. where people are experiencing extreme weather conditions.

When we were young and growing up in Flushing, NY, my brother and I would go out to play bundled up in our snowsuits, snow booties, scarves, hats and mittens, and return to our apartment frozen. Even our underwear froze. We would take off our gloves and place them on the radiator and the ice would melt off them in chunks. Our snowsuits, scarves and hats would be wrapped around the heating pipe that ran from the ceiling to the floor in the bathroom. We were kids and the cold didn't bother us that much -- it was too much fun.

My elementary school was only a few blocks away, but we lived almost a mile from my junior high school. There was no transportation provided to schoolchildren and I had to walk to school in all types of weather. In those days, girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. We were not even allowed to walk to school in pants and change into a skirt once we arrived. I wore knee socks with my skirts, but it didn't prevent the bitter cold from invading me as I walked those 15 blocks to junior high.

I was also a committed dancer and from the age of 11, I commuted by subway into the city (Manhattan) to take dance classes several times a week. I walked to the subway station (about ½ mile) and had to take two trains into the city and then walk four blocks to the dance studio on 83rd and Broadway. If I was lucky, I would get a seat and the blast of heat from beneath the seats would warm my legs. I had to change trains on an elevated subway platform and the worst part of the trip was waiting for the connecting train on the platform while the wind whipped across the station. My feet froze and the cold air went right through me. It stung my face and "burned" my forehead.

My commute to high school was a journey that spanned three boroughs and took almost two hours. At the time there were three specialized academic high schools in NYC. One entrance test was given for all three -- Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science. Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech were all males -- only Bronx Science admitted females. The test was unbelievably difficult, but somehow I passed and I was one of the few females to attend Bronx Science. Each day, I took two trains to get into Manhattan, another train to reach the North of the Bronx and then I had to walk around a reservoir to reach the school -- in a skirt!

After using public transportation for many years, my husband and I bought our first car when we got married. When it snowed, the city plowed the streets at night. In the morning, one of us had to shovel the snow that had been pushed against our car so we could get out of the spot. While the car was running, I would sweep the snow off the car and scrape the windshield to remove the ice. We kept kitty litter in the trunk to provide traction for the wheels. For many years I worked two jobs and commuted from my first job in Queens to Brooklyn, where I taught at Brooklyn College several evenings a week. That would necessitate digging, cleaning and scraping my car several times a day -- morning, afternoon and night.

Going anywhere in the inclement weather was a process that involved layering on coats, boots, scarves, hats and gloves and then removing them when I reached my destination, storing them and then putting them on again to return home. It became even more complex when we had children, as each baby had lots of gear -- a snowsuit, hat, gloves and scarf, and we had to keep track of it all. By the time we had our fourth son, we had developed an efficient system of getting him into his winter gear, attaching the pieces to his snowsuit and returning with most of them intact.

So, what do I feel when the LA weatherman predicts a "cold spell?" I get out my sweater and think that the rest of the country would consider this a "heat wave."