Sara Garfinkle in winter

Discovering Winter (and the Fashionable Winter Coat)

Written by Sara Garfinkle

It was robin’s egg blue, adorned with colorful buttons and patterned pockets. It was not very warm, but it was extremely fashionable. My freshman roommate took one look at it and said, “Sara, I’m going to help you pick out a new coat. You’ll die in that thing.” We sat on my bed, my laptop shared across our knees, and she helped me scroll through winter wear websites to find a functional—and, at my insistence, fashionable—winter coat. This was the first of countless interactions that prepared me for winter.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where seasons blur seamlessly together, a sunny day at 80 degrees can be any day of the year, and organic sunscreen sells all year long. The rumors I’d heard of Michigan winters terrified me. Sidewalks made of ice! Buildings buried in snow! Frostbite! And worst of all…frozen water from the sky, of all places!

In August, I was comfortable, confident even. I knew how to dress modestly and professionally in brutal heat. The humidity proved a challenge, but with a few inventive hairstyles and loose blouses, I was unstoppable.

September and October stretched languorously across the weeks, cool and crisp as the vegetables in the Saturday Farmers Market, and overnight, autumn arrived. Each weekend, I walked with some friends downtown. We explored the farmers market and local businesses, rating the coffee shop muffins on a scale of middle-school cafeteria to Grandma’s kitchen. Our weeks filled with study groups, midnight ramen feasts, and overpacked car trips to the exotic, far-off land of Walmart as temperatures began to sink. Homework piled higher than the leaves did. Colors decorated campus, bold and bright.

November arrived. So did the cold. The sunlight grayed, and I started panicking, the colorful leaves disappearing alongside my sense of confidence walking outside. As I got dressed on a bitterly cold day—52 degrees and cloudy—I layered two T-shirts, three sweaters I purchased from the Hillsdale Salvation Army store, and a throw blanket I wrapped around my shoulders as if it were a scarf. I lived in fear, scurrying from heated building to heated building.

It happened on a Tuesday night. I was watching Singin’ in the Rain in my dorm room. My fearless roommate was walking home—through the cold—from a meeting. Cosmo Brown and Don Lockwood had just finished my favorite dance number from the musical, Moses Supposes, when it started. White, pristine, and whimsical, it danced down from the clouds, lit by street lamps and glow from dorm room windows. Each snowflake was a dancer, and the air was a grand ballroom, open, filled with gilded costumes and sparkling champagne.

I leapt from my bed, eager to join the dance. I ran outside wearing pajamas and fuzzy socks to catch the dancers on my fingertips. About twenty seconds passed before a friend yanked me back inside, shoved a pair of gloves at me, and checked to make sure I had appropriate winter boots—and that I donned my roommate-approved coat.

I skipped outside again, impervious to the cold and marvelling at my first snow.


Sara Garfinkle Sara Garfinkle, ’20, studies Rhetoric, Pulic Address, and Hebrew. She plans to be a speechwriter and teacher after graduation. Until then, you can find her baking bread, watching science fiction shows, going on adventures with her Pi Phi sisters, and pranking her younger brother Ben.