Someone, possibly a total stranger, probably also said them to you. And when they did, you gave a wry little smile and probably muttered, "You, too." And maybe you felt a little better, but didn't really know why. Those two words?
"Stay warm." There- now I've said them, too.
Over the past few months, during this winter of wonder, we've all heard it said lots. At the coffee shop or the reception desk, on the phone with a client or my aunt, or in an email or voice mail sign-off, "stay warm" has become a seasonal replacement for "have a nice day." Of course you can't have a nice day - the wind chill is umpteen degrees below zero and you're performing yet another reverse winter striptease (boots, coat, gloves, scarf, hat - bada bing!). Scrape your windshield for the third time today, get out the parking lot, gravity-defying snow hurtles sideways, and a trip that should take 15 minutes takes 45.
It all adds up - and it all takes a little bit away, too. While preoccupied with tasks necessary to just go about your business, it's hard to "have a nice day."
But you can work to keep warm - for most of us, it's not as if we're on the street, fighting to survive (but for those who are out there, the sentiment - and the danger - is very real).
Mostly, though, our intent seems to wish that others fare well in making it through the day and the rest of the winter. To "stay warm" is to stay healthy, to "take care" to not slip and fall (and "crack your head open") and to not become involved in a multi-car accident on the Shoreway.
As with the many of our routine greetings, the connection has been broken between the words and the genuine sentiment behind them. When we say "Gesundheit," "hello," "goodbye," and "farewell," it's a rote exercise instilled in us by culture and family members.
So if you strangely feel a little more connected when someone tells you those two little words, you may just have your mom to thank. She's likely the one that bundled you up with scarves and mittens and genuine concern for your daily welfare.
And she's the one who most sincerely wished for you to, "Stay warm."