Baby, It’s Cold Out There

As I stand in the hardware store getting keys made for my house-sitter, the cell phone blasts its obnoxious ring into the air.  People turn to stare, somewhat disapprovingly.  I push my glasses higher on my nose and walk away from the counter to answer.  Penny says, “Can you come get me?” and I respond that sure, I will, and end the call with apologies to the manager who had been asking me about my plans for Christmas.

He’s a happy guy, the hardware store manager.  He told me about his perfect marriage one time, with a twinkle in his eye and a radiant smile on his lean face.  He raised his hand to smooth the little snow-white pony-tail he wears.  I gathered that they had married late in life, but I didn’t ask.  I just congratulated him.

Ever since I listened to him thank Heaven for sending him an angel, he’s fancied we’re friends.  I don’t know his name nor does he remember mine.  But as I wait for my keys, he asks about my travel plans and warns me to take a blanket in the car.  “It’s cold out there,” he says, and gestures to the windows.  The kid brings my keys and I walk over to the counter again, shoving my phone back into my purse and putting a five-dollar bill in the hands of the waiting cashier.  “And 89 cents,” he says, gently, and I give him another dollar.

They all tell me “Merry Christmas” and I respond the same, and throw in a Happy Holidays as the door closes.  Then I drive into Kansas, past the Starbucks at which Penny works, where we’re scheduled to have coffee.  I continue north, to her house.  When she’s settled in the car we double back and park in the same spot where I parked when I brought my favorite curmudgeon here for coffee more than two years ago, a few months before he became too tired to go anywhere.

I can’t move for a minute.  My hands grip the wheel and I tell Penny, I used to come here with Jay.  It’s a slight exaggeration.  We went there two or three times and I can’t remember why anymore.  It wasn’t near his house or mine.  But we did.  And later, when he stayed at Brighton Gardens, I brought him carry-out soup from a Panera’s just up the street.

I shake off the memories and get out of the car, moving slowly in the frigid air.  In a minute we are inside and Penny introduces me to her co-workers.  Then I have a chai latte, with soy milk, sitting beside me, and Penny opens the gift that I’ve brought for her.  I’m breathing easier.  I can smile.  I blink back the tears and tell a silly story about purple socks. Penny and I scrap a little bit over what it means, but good-naturedly.  She sparkles, and I laugh, and we talk about her jobs, the kids to whom she teaches art, and how her friend Tina is handling her first Christmas as a widow.

Before I know it, a couple of hours have passed and it’s time to go home.

It’s the nineteenth day of the thirty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  It’s four degrees below zero in Kansas City.  But life continues.

1218161247_hdr-2My soul sister, Penny Thieme.

One thought on “Baby, It’s Cold Out There

  1. A

    It is indeed cold out there! Yet I am looking forward to some very warm days soon. When my son says to me “Mommy?! I want to get in your pocket!” By that he means that he wants his head rested on my shoulder…. that spot between your armpit and deltoid. The best part is that (innately!) he throws his leg over mine. Just like I always have when I am comfortable. He is, and always will be MY SON! The deepest parts of him…. from his love of dancing and music (from before birth). To his love of bonfires and fishing. Etc… I worry about how he will change now. Then I console myself with how he has always seemed to have “been here before”.

    We have got this. I just pray you will be available when wrongs are made right.

    “Purple Socks” …. Let me guess. Purple is a power color. I am sure I know who was wearing those yet I don’t find the story so appealing. I will get over it.
    My friend that has helped me through this, has a sock fetish… every time I put on a pair he bought me, I think to myself “I could have had 15 pair for the cost of these… yet I feel spoiled… enjoy them and say then “Sa la vi”…. what is supposed to be …will be.

    Merry Christmas!!


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