I am sitting here on the porch, basking in the sun and warmth, sighing deeply and looking with relief towards the end of this year. It was a harrowing trip south, in sub-zero temperatures with all possible variations on foul weather. Back in Chicago it snowed a lot, then it rained, then the temps dropped precipitously and the winds picked up. Ice banks froze in the alley and the streets and that made loading the U-Haul headed for Asheville a miserable mess. As soon as the door was closed on that, Rich and Dan and Melissa climbed in the car, the two cats were stuffed, highly indignant, through the windows and they started the drive south. The weather never improved, it was still freezing when they arrived on our mountain near Asheville at 2 am and here’s a surprise: There’s no ambient light from skyscrapers, neighboring condos or helicopters. Why, it was pitch black and how nice is that, except on this particular occasion?
In Asheville, Sophie, who travels contentedly in a lap, caught whiff of what? The bear that has clearly claw marked our terrace chestnut as his own? and became instantly feral, Cloudy moaned and moved into the litter box, the grown children whined, Rich cursed at the frozen lock box that held the house key and lest you think I missed out on this adventure, no. They called me repeatedly at 2 am, 215 am, 3 am, 33o am, 430 am with demands for magic keys, 24 hour motels that would accept crazy cats and divine intervention of any sort. I had nothing to offer so they made due, broke in , slept on the floor while the cats went crazier, unloaded and dropped the trailer and finished the drive south.
I stayed back, whipped the house into shape for the realtor, packed and fed-exed last minute items including Christmas stockings, handknit scarves, socks and mittens. I picked up the Honey Bear ham for Christmas dinner and shipped that off as well and then closed out my year at the zoo in minus 3 degrees. Only the seal sisters and the polar bears braved the Lake Michigan winds. I did my last traveling zoo to the Japanese- American senior center and shared Meatball, the armadillo, with the residents. And then, I was off like a prom dress, to O’Hare, catching one of the last flights out before more bad weather shut the place down on the 22nd.
Here in Florida, with the help of Abby’s Misha, I slapped up porch lights and slapped down the Christmas polar bears, geese and penguin out in the front yard. I threw sea stars and moon jelly ornaments on the small artificial tree, left everything ablaze and crawled into bed. Two hours later, at 3 am, the family pulled up in a car over flowing with crumbs, pop bottles, fast food wrappers and bad humor.
When Abby was a tot, we had a family joke based on one of her tirades that ended with, “DON’T NOT SPEAK A ME!” That was the order for the rest of that day and the next and then somehow it was Christmas eve and there was peace on earth and we all felt blessed in our new wool slippers, entirely unnecessary here in St. Petersburg.
And so we have arrived. Daniel has been and gone, home to record another CD. Why is it that we sometimes have one child we are so close to, so in love with, so invested in, so concerned about, that it’s a lifelong push-pull affair? He is mine and we are both now mature enough to recognize that we love each other so much we drive each other nutsy. When he leaves we are both ready and it breaks my heart to see him go. I know. I’m working on it.
Abby and Misha are working through most of Christmas break but they’re around enough to eat, play euchre and enjoy. Abby showed me her semester grades. She had a very heavy load, with 6 senior honors classes in advanced chemistry, geology, foreign literature, environmental policy. Here are her grades: A,A,A,A+, A+ and F. She got an A+ in advanced bio-chem with 400 points out of 400 points on the final exam. She got an F in the lab for that class. Apparently she had a conflict. Sleep, chess club, something.
Melissa, Rich’s youngest, is here and has been joined by her new-ish boyfriend; he is a charming young man between his 2nd and 3rd tour in Iraq. I noticed this morning, when I pulled up behind his truck (he drove from Missouri) that his license plate says PH3…and has a purple heart on it. Sadly, proudly, he earned that.
The earth boxes are planted already. Today, I’ve seen the dermatologist and I escape a basal cell scare again. Lord, it’s a great day when I leave his office with only four burns and a slice and believe me, I’m doing the happy dance here. I’d already written the epitaph for my nose: Even Though it Blew, I Loved it Still. Happily, I can save that for another day.
The cats took all of five minutes to relax, find their favorite sleeping spots on the porch and catch a lizard. (Sophie catches it and gifts it to McCloud, who pokes it to death. It’s a lovely and precise communion.) The camera is unpacked and I’ve been to the bayou. Pictures tomorrow. I’ll also get to the title of the post, part two.