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I felt like I was preparing for the world to end on Monday.  Sixteen inches of snow were forecasted to fall on Tuesday, and since I had been out of the office for most of the prior week with a sick Bear, I didn’t have time for snow.

I left the house that morning in such haste to run several errands before work that I forgot my breakfast and more importantly, my wallet.  I drove first to the bank so I could deposit a check that, for whatever reason, had been repeatedly spit back at me by our friendly, local ATM, but then I discovered that I had no wallet.  So, I drove back home to get it.  Once I got back to the bank, I discovered that they did not open for another ten minutes, or until 8:30, which was not convenient, since I had a client arriving at 9:00.  So, I drove across the street to mail a package at a UPS store.

Inside, an older man was listening to classical music.  He seemed to have been up for hours and clearly had no cares in the world.  I watched him tape a box.  Then, I watched him type something on the computer.  Then, he returned to taping the box.  When he finally looked up at me, I could feel the beginnings of frenzy boil inside of me.  He took my box from me and weighed it.  Then, he wanted to know if there was glass inside.  There was.  More typing.  Then, he wanted to know if the value was greater than $100.  I thought about it for a moment, and said that the value was probably around $130.  Wrong answer.  He began to explain that they would charge me an additional amount for something valued more than $100.  So, I told him that if I were to sell the contents of the box, that I would not get more than $100.  He pursed his lips, but he didn’t argue with me about it.  He then told me that the shipping charges came to $13.  I raised my eyebrows.  Unless, he said, I wanted to use Parcel Post.  I did, I told him.  He began to lecture me about how my valuable items would not be protected through Parcel Post and that UPS was really my best option and that anyone with items as valuable as mine should want to track their progress to ensure that they arrived at their destination.  At this point, I practically threw $13 at him and ran out of the store.

Back at the bank, they had unlocked the front doors, and a line had formed.  One teller was helping the customers in the line, and another, who apparently was assigned the drive-through window, was looking out the window waiting for customers there.  Three other bank employees sat at their desks facing us watching.   When I arrived “on deck,” I watched the woman in front of me as she was being assisted by the teller.  This woman was wearing stretchy Capri pants with tall, Ugg-like boots up to her knees.  She kept bending and stretching and bending and stretching, and her ambivalence was driving me a little crazy.  When I finally reached the teller, she took the check from my hands and began typing at her computer.  She ran it through a little machine.  She wrote something on it.  She typed some more and handed me a deposit slip.  Not once did she look at me or open her mouth to speak.

Once at work, I met with my client, and then called another who was scheduled to come in the middle of the world-ending blizzard the next day.  No, she couldn’t come any other day.  No, she couldn’t come in earlier.  No, she didn’t mind driving through the blizzard.  Fine, I said.  I’ll be here, and I’ll attempt to arrange for childcare, since undoubtedly, Bear’s daycare will be closed.

At this point, my nose had started running.  I began to feel that bone-tired feeling where you want to put on every pair of sweats you own and curl up in a corner to sleep.  I began sneezing every few minutes, just in time for the arrival of my next client.

During this meeting, I missed a call from Bear’s daycare.  When my client and I moved from the conference room to my office so I could access my computer, my husband called.  Bear’s eye was swelling and her legs were covered with hives, so he was on his way to pick her up and he’d arranged for an appointment with her allergist.  Once I’d finished with my client, I “remotely” attended Bear’s appointment.  The doctor explained that she was prescribing Prednisone and explained that Bear likely was having an allergic reaction but that she also seemed to have an infection, so the doctor would also prescribe an antibiotic. 

Poor kid.  I wanted to go home to be with her, and I did not feel well myself.  My eyes were watery, and I felt both hot and cold.  Later that night, after we had put an itchy Bear to bed, I could not get comfortable enough to sleep.  Fever moved in about the time the blizzard started.  It felt like our furnace was losing the battle to the bitter cold outside.  The next morning, I woke up wearing three shirts and a jacket with the hood pulled over my head.  I felt terrible.

At 7:00 that morning, I called my client again, thinking that maybe the reality of the blizzard had caused a change of heart.  No.  She stilled planned on coming.  About that time, I received notice that Bear’s daycare would be closed.  Of course.  My husband volunteered to take more time away from work so I could meet with my client.  I left a message imploring her to arrive as soon as she could, and I left for work three hours before her appointment.

Ten minutes after her appointment was to begin, she called to say that she was “right around the corner.”  Great, I said with my voice full of sickness, because our office was closing, but I would wait for her.

Oh, you’re sick, she responded.  Oh no.  I hope that I don’t get it.  I wouldn’t want my baby to get sick.

Too bad, lady.

hydrangea, by Muffet on Flickr, Creative Commons.

I left work briefly today and took a walk through a neighborhood adjoining my office, something that I have never done during the three years that I have worked here. When I was pregnant, I would occasionally head outside and tramp up and down the sidewalk in front of my office in an effort to churn up some energy, but I have never headed beyond the sidewalk outside of my urban office, in most part due to the fact that the area has its fair share of crime. However, for late June, the weather is fairly nice, and I was in need of a little inspiration, which I always find outside.

Once outside of my office and across the busy street to the South of it, I discovered a community garden, which despite driving past it several times a day, I have never noticed the sweet, little triangular patch of green nestled in-between two highly- traveled streets. As I continued down the sidewalk, on one side I passed a neighborhood school with uniformed children playing basketball outside and on the other, a row of poorly-kept houses. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that outside of one, three cats on leashes were chained to the front porch. They stared back at me with wild eyes, and two of them had hopelessly wrapped their tethers around a tree. Aside from their constraints, which were obviously not well-suited for their cat natures, they seemed well-cared for.

The row of houses led to several recently-constructed condo buildings, which had sprung up a few years ago before the bottom fell out of real estate market. Outside, two young women lounged by a very blue pool reading. I found my real discovery beyond the condos, however, where the neighborhood suddenly morphed into a line of very well-maintained older homes built into a steep hillside. Instead of grassy lawns, most had trails of English ivy bordering the steep driveways that wound up one side of each home and behind either into garages or down into basements. Several homes had terraced gardens full of brightly-colored flowers and plants. I took in the blues and purples of hydrangeas and the bright oranges of tiger lilies with the green of the ivy and the pastels of each home. Large oaks lined the street, which had no sidewalk, and helped drown out the buzz of traffic only a block or two away. I could hear the sweet songs of birds! Along with the sunshine and light exercise, their songs eased my busy mind.

On the way back to the office, I thought about my grandmother. My dear, sweet grandma has been slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s, and despite the fact that both she and my grandfather are still living, we sold off most of their belongings this past weekend. Following the sale, I spent some time reading through a journal that my grandmother had kept when I was a young child. She wrote of tending her garden, which took up most of her backyard and consisted of winding trails, benches, fountains, statues, and most of all, tall plants that obscured the view of the house. She described how this garden and the nature she observed in it eased some of the pain and tension she felt as a result of a loveless marriage.

Her rough relationship with my grandfather has never been a secret in my family, and the marriage still exists, although now she sees my grandfather as the grumpy, old man who is her roommate, or sometimes, as the grumpy, old man who happens to be in the room with her as her perception does not always go beyond the present moment. However, her description of the solace she found outside, reminds me of myself. I always believed that the peace I found in nature came from my upbringing on a Midwestern farm and the hours I spent playing alone outside because I had no playmates nearby, aside from the cat and dog and horses and cattle. However, I found some of her words in my own mind and her truth in my own heart. As I returned to my office and passed back by the beautiful homes on the hillside, the modern condos with their blue pool, and the funny, little houses and chained cats, I felt better equipped to deal with the requirements of my day, just as my grandmother must have felt somewhat refueled to return to the battle that was her marriage.


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