The great Chicago winter of 2014: When it was OK to stay home

Come sit by the fire, li'l children, and let me tell you about the great Chicago winter of 2014.

Oh, it was a fearsome time, children, that record-breaking winter of the great polar vortex, and even though we weren't quite sure what a polar vortex was, we sure liked saying it.

Polar vortex. Polar vortex. Polar vortex.

For all we knew, a polar vortex was the latest style of North Face coat, but whatever it was, we hadn't been so happy to learn a new expression since we discovered the word "twerkin'."

Oh, I know, munchkins, twerkin' to you is as passe as the Charleston was to us, but believe me, everything new eventually turns old — that's right, Granny Cyrus was once young — so pipe down, pipsqueaks, and let's get back to the great 2014 polar vortex thingy.

That long-ago winter will be remembered for many astounding things, kids.

It was colder in Chicago than at the South Pole!

So cold we took to calling our toddlin' town Chiberia! Cutesy but fun.

So cold that when you tossed hot water into the air, it froze!

No, no, when I say that that epic winter will be remembered for many astounding things, I'm not talking about the mayor's tan. Lighten up, pipsqueaks. A vacation is not a crime even if it makes bad PR.

Of all the astounding things that happened that winter, my little friends, the greatest of them was this: We finally admitted that sometimes it's OK to stay home just because it's cold.

When it's 16 below, with ice everywhere, it's OK for students not to go to school. It's OK for grown-ups not to go to work.

Better to be safe than frostbit.

You take this for granted, children, because the subspecies of human known as a Chicagoan has evolved, but let me tell you, once upon a time in Chicago, staying home in winter bordered on treason, even when the cold was so brutal it clobbered you like a 6-foot-6 drunk with a crowbar.

Back when we geezers were growing up, kids, staying home in winter was as heretical as ketchup on a hot dog.

Afraid of falling on the ice? Coward.

Got the flu? Wimp.

We used terms like "braving the cold" to invest stupid winter behavior with moral value. Frosted purple toes were our purple hearts.

But the winter that Tom Skilling whispered "polar vortex" in our frosty ears was the winter we showed we had wised up. At 16 below, we mustered the wisdom and the fortitude to say:

There is no virtue in frostbite.

CHICAGO

More