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A Closer Look

Something was wrong with the outlet adapter. My curling iron blinked when I turned it on but wouldn’t heat up. Feeling befuddled from lack of sleep, I grumbled and fussed until my daughter plugged it into a different outlet, where it did work, but didn’t have a mirror near-by.

Getting out of the wrong side of the bed can happen even while on vacation. With our five-a.m. wake-up call, I’d only had five hours of sleep. Then, instead of taking a speed train to Lourdes in southern France today, as we’d originally planned, we were riding a bus. The French train workers were on strike.

Beneath all these aggravations, was the niggling, pinching, chafing realization that today would have been my 48th wedding anniversary if my husband, Arnie were alive. I felt sad and, in a way, abandoned.

Our early morning wake-up call was not only to avoid the morning commuter traffic in Paris, but because it would take our bus longer than the train to get to Lourdes. I picked up a boxed breakfast and a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby, trying not to spill or drop either as I took my seat on the tour bus. Continue reading

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Striking Contrasts

Strong gusts of wind swirled clouds of ice crystals over the crest of a huge drift between my house and garage. I stood at the staircase window, watching and waiting. This unexpected spring blizzard had already raged for nearly 48 hours. Surely it would end soon. As I watched, the day’s light slowly began to fade. Shielded by cold, gray clouds, our warm, bright sun was dropping behind the horizon.

My daughter Tammie stepped up alongside me and commented, “It looks like it’s still snowing.”

Nodding, I answered, “The weather report is that the storm will end this evening. Anyway, I’ve noticed the wind usually settles down after the sun sets. I hope the man who plows my yard will be able to come then.”

My daughter and I needed to be at Chicago’s O’Hare airport tomorrow to take a flight to Europe. It had been good luck and a quick, last-minute decision that allowed Tammie, who lives in the Twin Cities, to arrive at my house just as the blizzard began two days ago. We’d been snowbound ever since. Continue reading

Closing Door

Rain pelted down onto my car’s windshield. I leaned forward and stared at the rivulets of water. Were there a few ice crystals in some of those drops? I pulled out my phone and texted my daughter Tammie, “It’s started raining here already. My car’s thermometer shows that it is 35 degrees. Are you still planning to drive home tomorrow?”

All morning as I did my errands, I stopped often to text my daughter updates on the weather. “It stopped raining.” Then, “The rain has started up again.” Later, “I saw a few ice crystals in the falling rain.” I’m not usually so preoccupied with the weather, but the weather service had reported a large spring snow storm moving through the Mid-West for the last two days. Both my home and my daughter’s were in the center of its path!

Having a huge storm approach Wisconsin doesn’t usually bother me, but this time I had something important to do and didn’t want the weather to get in the way. My daughter and I were planning to leave for vacation in France, Spain and Portugal on Monday. But first Tammie needed to drive the three hours from her home to mine. She planned to do it on Saturday afternoon. I was worried that the storm would make the roads too bad by then.    Continue reading

Smart, Smarter and Smartest

Tammie’s cell phone made a familiar ‘ping’! She glanced over at it from where she was sitting behind the steering wheel and said, “Mom, that’s probably Niki answering my text. Why don’t you see what she said.”

I gingerly picked up my daughter’s phone, afraid that I would accidentally press a button or somehow damage it unintentionally. The message had already disappeared from the screen. Not sure what to do, I hesitated.

Tammie encouraged, “Don’t be afraid to handle my phone, Mom. You’re not going to break it. You know my code. Go ahead and enter it to see what Niki said.”

Reluctantly, I did as my daughter directed. I suspected she was hoping that if I used her phone a few times, I would begin to want one for myself. Several years ago, she had asked me, “What would you do if your car broke down while traveling to visit me? You need to own a cell phone so you can call for help!”

I doubt what I did was what she had expected. I went out and bought a primitive flip phone. It doesn’t have dozens of bells and whistles, but I can make calls and take mediocre pictures. Continue reading

An Evening in Paris

I crept quietly towards my sister’s bedroom door and peeked in. Babe was sitting on a ruffled stool in front of the dressing table combing her dark hair into a smooth pageboy. Clad only in a long slip, she looked thin and delicate.

Behind me, I heard Mama coming up the stairs. Tousling my hair, she walked past me into the room inquiring, “Did you want me to help you slip into your prom dress?”

The blue, floor-length formal Babe had chosen to wear for the dance tonight had blue tulle over a silky under-skirt. It looked heavenly. I sighed in admiration. My sister looked like an angel standing in a misty cloud. Slipping into high heels, my sister turned back toward her dressing table, picked up a blue bottle and dabbed perfume behind her ears.

I giggled when Babe’s date came to pick her up. Although I’d seen him before, he looked different wearing a formal suit. Mom retrieved her brownie box camera from her bedroom bureau to take a photograph of them in the backyard. I watched and wondered if I’d ever look as grown-up and sophisticated as they did.

After Babe and her date drove away, I wandered around in the backyard for a while. Despite a small rain shower earlier, the golden rays from the setting sun felt warm. Under my bare feet, the grass felt slightly damp. The scent of blossoming lilacs filled the yard. Sniffing, I thought my sister’s little dab of perfume. Continue reading

Selective Shedding

I stood in the middle of the kitchen munching on apple slices and sipping a cup of tea. “This will have to do for my breakfast.” I told my daughter, Tammie. “I’m in a hurry because I didn’t allow enough time to get ready for my appointment.”

The sound of a cat pawing at the entry door prompted Tammie to get up from the dining room table to open the door. My sleek white and black cat Louie, slipped quickly into the room and made a bee-line toward me.

Taking one step backward, I said, “No. Louie, stay away…ach!” Although I didn’t want it to happen, Louie rubbed his entire silky body from nose to tail against my left leg. I looked down at my black slacks now half covered with white cat hair. He turned around to make a second swipe, this time against my right leg. I pushed him away.

Tammie said, “Mom, he’s just trying to tell you how much he loves you.”

“Yes, I know how much he loves me.” I snapped. “He loves me so much that he wants his scent to be all over me! My problem is that I’m leaving the house and don’t want to look like an unkempt fur-ball.” Continue reading

Cabin Fever

I opened my eyes and saw gray light filtering into the room. Pushing the blankets aside I walked to the window and lifted a curtain to peek out. My monochromic yard looked dreary. “The weatherman was wrong.” I grumbled. “The storm didn’t start at six am. Maybe he’ll also be wrong about it being icy. With any luck we’ll get nothing but snow.” I glared disdainfully at the black evergreen branches, gray tree trunks and white snow. The tracks in the snow were old and no longer interested me. I felt bored with this unchanging winter landscape.

Once a week I clean out my furnace’s ash pan. After dressing, I jogged down to the basement to shut the wood pellet burner off, the first step of the chore. Passing a window, I thought about how excited I am when I see new tracks in the snow around the house. Winter boredom, cabin fever, or whatever you want to call it, magnifies the mundane to an otherwise perfectly normal person. Continue reading