February 10, 2021
I was not a fan of roses. Just as Valentine’s Day, I viewed roses as rather a vapid symbol of love. Red roses? Roses? Me? I am the daisy girl. I am the brick dandelion. But roses?
Um, yes. Last summer I bought teacup rose bushes to plant in a garden bed. They are softly colored tones of pink, yellow and red; roses which remind me of wild roses adorning the sugar sands’ edges of Lake Michigan beaches. I have since succumbed to the entire gamut of colors which we humans engineered for roses.
I shake my head in disbelief that I am planning more rosebeds this year. Nothing fancy, but I think the perennials outlined by the forest’s , will brighten the backdrop of pines and maples. Poppies too! I remember those whispy, silky flowers. As far as I know, the two generations who came before me planted those poppies for their additive to Belgian and Bohemian pastries and not for any ‘medicinal value’. But, then again, who knows?
(When it comes to my family, one never really knows….just saying.)
I was not a fan of Valentine’s Day either. I thought the combination of peanut butter and chocolate was disgusting. Even chocolate, for that matter, made me question which side of the proverbial bed I got up on. I felt out of touch. Everyone loved chocolate, right? I did not. (Please take note of the past tense…)
The Year of the Ox begins on Friday, February 12. I like to celebrate Chinese New Year’s with a bit of Americanized Chinese food and oranges. I like the idea of fruit signifying importance in holidays. The inclusion in ones menu somehow seems natural and basic and simple. Oranges signify good luck and wishing others at your table a sweet year. I like to think of one hundred or two hundred years ago when citrus fruit was rare. What a treat it would have been, to be served oranges.
And at Jewish holidays, I have celebrated with honey-drizzled apple slices. The simple fruit signifies health and again, honey symbolizes the sweetness wished to our lives. Health and sweetness. What a universal concept! As a child, I remember my grandmother and her sister, my Great Aunt Mae, displaying plates of dried fruits. We always had nuts to crack and trays of apricots, prunes and honeyed dates.
A week ago tomorrow, the first blizzard of any sort blew into northcentral Wisconsin. By the time it stomped out of our area, an easy eleven – maybe even twelve inches – had fallen. Treacherous rains preceded the storm. As the temperatures dropped, the roads hardened with balls of glued ice.
My mother and I spent last Wednesday evening together, complete with shopping for her supplies, putting away her supplies, eating a meal together, watching wonderfully mindless televsion programs, then falling asleep. We both awoke just before midnight. As I drove home, I checked on the buildings, then proceeded on my way. Halfway through town, tiny water specs dotted my windshield.
Shortly after midnight, the rains began.
I needed to open the store early Thursday morning. The storm was forecasted to continue through Thursday to earliest morning on Friday, with the heaviest of snows to arrive later in the afternoon on Thursday. I decided I would try to beat the storm by sleeping for three more hours. I reasoned that I could perhaps beat the freezing of the roads plus I would arrive super early to the store.
I did. As I drove, the rain froze on my windshield and glued to the highway pavement. But it still was not slippery. Twenty minutes north of my home, the weather always turns and sure enough, the rain turned into heavy snow.
“Ugh,” my chest dropped. I felt defeated until two minutes later I was once again driving in rain. Which would have been worse? I was not sure. But I arrived sneakily early to the store. It was like I had beaten Mother Nature and Father Time. A ridiculous notion I had, but I was indeed safe and early.
But the day was ready for me as well. The day progressed, fast, yet with experiences as varied and numerous as the hours. Some employees were not able to drive to work. Delivery trucks were delayed or postponed until the next day. Crews, accustomed to unloading trucks, were now rerouted to stocking shelves. Oddly enough, customers came shopping in full. The coming weekend was Super Bowl. People were focused upon stocking their own shelves in preparation for the weekend.
And, I would like to think, some customers were looking at some Valentines to express their love. Or not.
Throughout the day, there were very human issues regarding the storm. Safety became even more critical. Equipment breakdowns, incorrect labels, balanced lunches and break times and financial books needed attention.
The usual! But the usual became unusually long. Thirteen hours. Fourteen hours. I had always prided myself on work ethic, but I have realized my haywire approach was exhausting. I was exhausted and I was not the only one. One of the most rewarding aspects of work has been the teams. We were all exhausted.
And the storm raged. Buckets of snow dumped. Some associates asked to leave early. “Of course.” We all knew the forecast for the days following the storm. The Arctic air was due to gust immediately. The weekend would bring bright, sunny days with air temperatures not rising above zero Fahrenheit.
I needed to return to work early Friday morning. By midday Thursday, I decided to stay rather than drive the forty-six miles home. My motel is one I used to book clients and visitors over twenty years ago. The northern log cabin exterior is still welcoming as is the interior atmosphere. It is not the most modern of motels, but I like the memories of it. No one is there from twenty years ago. But in the past few years that I have commuted, whenever work gets too long or the coming day is coming way too soon – such as inventory days – I stay there. Or when the weather threatens, I stay. Theirs is a welcome ease.
When I called for a reservation, I asked, “Is your pool open? I think I will be arriving early evening, so I might have swimming time. Is it open?”
“Yes,” the host answered. “We close the pool now on weekends due to COVID and the potential for crowding. But during the week, our pool is open.”
My heart jumped. I had not been swimming, like swimming-swimming, like lap swimming and goofing around swimming, for a long time. Suddenly, I was twelve years old. It was like a slumber party for one.
And throughout the whole day, the moments I thought of my twelve year old soul’s fantasy, I smiled. I desperately needed to attend to my twelve year old soul.
When I left work, I looked like it had been a fourteen hour day. Beside my challenge of proper time management and healthy self managment, I worked fourteen hours that day. (I am working on the management part. I mean, really, Steph. You manage. You lead. But self manage? Um, no.)
I dunned my snow boots and my polar rabbit fur lined hat. Before I left work, I bought a collapsible cart. Time and time again, when carrying luggage into a hotel, I balance odd belongings. I sling plastic bags, my purse, my briefcase, and my overnight bag over my shoulders and under my arms. Or I search half the building for a luggage cart. Nope, not this time. I purchased a multiple duty, collapsible cart which looks more like a canvas version of a red wagon. I did not care. I cannot tell you the immense pride I felt with my new collapsible cart from our sporting goods section.
Since I was in the ‘I am twelve years old mode,” I drove to my motel room through the storm, stopping at a Domino’s down the road. I ordered a pizza with as many veggies as a super thin crust could hold. (They warned me it might be messy.) And diet soda. And a salad.
The hotel itself was nearly empty, judging by the vehicles outside. Streets and parking lots had not been yet plowed. I was greeted by the clerk who seemed equally happy to see me. I parked outside, then packed my new cart full with my spare woolen blanket, three bags of miscellaneous contents, an overnight bag, my purse and of course, my pizza. From a utilitarian standpoint, it worked. (Until, of course, the following morning, when in the dark of morning, I could not solve the collapsing of the cart.) I wheeled through the eight inches of snow to the door, through the halls, then to my room.
I was pleasantly surprised at the location of room 112. Ordinarily, a grown-up might be dismayed with a room next to the pool, but this was my party. I was twelve for a few hours.
I had not eaten all day. (I do not recommend this approach to life). I ate. Tiredness eased a bit. I texted my family that I was safe and heading for the pool.
I started for the hot tub. Puddles lined the deck, revealing that someone else had enjoyed it. I could not fathom how hot hot actually can be. At first I wondered if it can ever be too hot. As I debated and wondered, I eased my achy, cold body into the water. I melted. For fifteen minutes I did not think about anything except the miracle of bubbles.
Then, what I had waited for. The swimming pool. I do not know when I last swam anything nearing lap swims. Nor can I remember ever being that hesitant to jump in. The pool contained no steps. I had no desire to boldly jump. I sat on the edge. I admired the chair access which now lines many, if not all, swimming pools. When my father was alive, the transfer chairs were a rarity. Knowing the challenges of limited mobility, I am so grateful to see them now.
I sat on the pool’s edge. Even the concrete was delicious in its cold rough surface. “I am swimming.”
Well, not yet.
I eased myself down. I stood, shivering, in waist deep water. The pool was a surprise in that it was large. It was built with a depth meant for diving at one end, yet not nearly enough deck surface area for a board. Or if there had been a board, it would have been tight. Perhaps at one time the pool had been outside? Was the pool enclosed at a later date?
I thought not. But my mind played with the construction of pools in Wisconsin and the special challenges of running heated water to them and filtering them…and…at that point, I stalled my analysis.
Finally, I dove under. I had waited all day. My body slowly grew accustomed to the water’s tepid temperature. And I swam. I felt awkward and wonderful at the same time, like making love after a long absence. Slowly I stroked through the water. My legs moved, encompassed by the weight of water. My arms tugged with each cupped hand that cut the surface. Back and forth, back and forth.
Thirty-five minutes later I was ready for more whirlpool. (Why did that label go out of fashion, I wonder?) By the time I ended my night, I replaced my suit with my pink fuzzy pajamas, drank water, then slipped into sleep. I do not know a time when I slept so soundly.
The following weekend I celebrated Valentines Day early and my rare two day weekend off with pink roses for home. A bit early to be sure, but I beat the price increases! And, I have my roses!
Did I mention my shoulders? I thought I had blown a rotator cuff. My hypochondriac ways kicked in after my swimming sprints. I walk anywhere from four to eleven miles each day at work. I consider myself – wrongly – physically fit. Nope, not true. Cardio. I need cardiovascular exercise.
And, it turns out, I also need to exercise my arms and shoulders. They finally stopped hurting.
Six days later…(please, laugh a lot. I can be the biggest whiner. Perhaps that goes hand in hand with my twelve year old soul’s tendencies)
Finally, I wish you all a wonderful Year of the Ox. Chinese New Years had always been meaningful for my parents. It had been the event of their first kiss. May Valentine’s Day be yours. May that day and all your days be discoveries of love and the universe’s many expresssions thereof.
But just in case, I wish you love. Lots. And a kiss to boot.
~stephanie, the brick dandelion (who loves roses and attends to all her soul – including the twelve year old within!)
PS. If you ever purchase such a collapsible cart and wish to collapse it, just lift up on the strap in the middle. It is not rocket science. The answer was, of course, extremely obvious. (It took me two days to figure it out. Okay, that is a lie. It took me two days to swallow my pride, look at the instructions, then follow them. Two days…)