“March straight back in that house and put on a toboggan!” I can’t even count how many times I heard that sentence growing up. It didn’t matter if I was in the mountains or at the beach; everyone called knitted winter hats the same thing.
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that people in other places called knitted hats anything else – or that toboggan had another meaning. At least not until I was grown, and even then, I was only vaguely aware that winter hats had other names.
But that’s before I rode to Michigan with Kodecker to bring my nephew, Bubba, home from an extended visit. I’d never been that far north before, and, y’all, I gotta tell ya: Michigan is cold.
Snow fell for 12 hours straight during our trip. While there, I wore layers, a thick coat, and a toboggan. No joke; I was bundled up like Randy in A Christmas Story.
Not only was it cold, but I experienced some major culture shock. Accents were different, people used words I’d never heard before, and there wasn’t a boiled peanut to be found.
My Southern bones were thankful when we pointed the car back toward the Mason-Dixon. That’s when it happened; my nephew spoke to me in Yankee.
I asked Bubba to hand me my toboggan before venturing out of the car into yet another gas station restroom. He looked at me as pretty as you please and announced, “That’s a knit cap. A toboggan is a sled.”
Dear lawd! That baby spent far too long in Michigan.
After I got back in the car, Bubba and I had a lengthy discussion about what a toboggan is. Finally, we agreed: in Michigan, a toboggan is a sled, but at home in North Carolina, it is a hat.