My Saturday morning Facebook post: “It’s starting to get to me. Seven days inside my house. Can’t even walk to the mailbox now. Can’t get the dog out without risking my own safety. I carried forty bowls of hot water out and cleared her ramp and put towels over the slippery deck, but she still slides on the ice-covered ground. Supposed to rain today and melt, but it is not happening here yet.” It’s been seven days since I’ve gotten out of my yard. The neighborhood and town streets are still iced over. I’m still getting 911 messages that certain streets and intersections are dangerous and to STAY HOME. Okay, I am staying home, and I’m sick of it!
I need to go to the grocery store. I’m out of bread, paper towels, and CHOCOLATE.
Each time I look out the window at white, I fall apart a little more.
First, there’s the geriatric dog. I’ve worked my bloody fingers to the icy bone trying to clear a space for her to get out to do her business. The needles of ice that used to be soft fescue have bloodied her paws and made her a trembling wreck. She hates being carried to the front yard because she knows it is painful. In the back, there’s the ramp I’ve worked hard to keep safe and then inches of ice on the ground. She squats and her legs keep going into the splits. It’s hard for an old girl.
And then there are the house issues. I’ve dripped faucets. I’ve shoveled snow. I’ve worried for three days that my gutters would fall off. So far, so good. But I’ve just heard in the last hour about three neighbors whose upstairs storage crawl spaces are leaking. Southern houses just aren’t built for this kind of stuff! They are all devastated. These are new houses. I check my storage space quickly. I don’t want to discover anything. Please God, no leaks, no water on the floor. Please. I seem to remember asking this once before…maybe this time it can be okay. Maybe I have enough sun on my roof to melt the heavy stuff.
And then there’s the looming medical procedure Monday. I need the ice to melt so I can get there.
Like the layers of ice, inch upon inch, there’s one stress on top of another and after seven days of climbing the walls, I am fast coming unglued.
It’s enough to send a girl scrambling for the bottle of Jack Daniels and whatever chocolate she can scrape up, which consists of a handful of complimentary chocolate mints Olive Garden hands out.
Woe is me, for I am undone.
Okay, that’s my whine. I’m done. Now, I will pick myself up and do as my son told his ten-month-old daughter when she fell down while learning to walk and started to cry: “Walk it off, Jillie, walk it off.”
Sometimes you come upon priceless little treasures you tucked away years ago for safekeeping. And you find them later and melt like chocolate on a warm spring day. It happened to me last week, a week before Valentine’s Day.
I was cleaning out some boxes and bins in an upstairs closet, organizing and throwing the old out. In a folder I found a card Charlie had made for me one February 14. I think it was the same Valentines he bought a life-sized card, three feet tall, and so how do you top that with something personal? You draw a card. You make it yourself.
And so the engineer drew a heart with a red magic marker. Note that the low point at the top of the heart where the lines meet is exactly above the bottom meeting point. Because that’s what engineers do. And note that the sides are exact, too. I’m sure he folded it or something to get it right. Because that’s what engineers do. It can’t be off. And I don’t know if there’s a compass thingy for a Valentine.
The always-working engineer found time to make a heart.
In black ink he wrote:
The three magic words
A qualifier to the three magic words
The signature that you can barely make out to say “Charlie”…
I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I practiced signing his name. He always laughed and told me I’d never be able to do it like him. And he was right.
He cut out the heart. Lord help us all, the engineer did not stay on the line!
Charlie’s “I Love You” came to me ten, maybe fifteen years ago, inside this red heart. And it was endearing to know that a busy man would take the time to create something so simple, so personal, so heartfelt, rather than just stopping by the Hallmark store.
I didn’t know then that it would be a heart – his own real heart – that would take him away from me. But it was, and he is gone, and now I have this paper heart and the two red lines that touch in the middles and the magic words inside. And for the moment it is enough.
I scrubbed them with lime basil soap and rubbed in lotion of coconut milk and orchid extract again and again. Still, my hands feel like sandpaper. It’s okay, though.
It’s what happens when you put your hands in the dirt for the first time as the season of planting and growing draws nigh.
When I bought this house three years ago, I told myself I wasn’t going to plant anything. Except grass. There was nothing in the back yard but a blanket of dirt with seeds and straw over it. I couldn’t manage all the flower beds at my old house, and I didn’t want to find myself in that shape in this place. But no. I couldn’t leave it alone.
I hauled in a hundred bags of topsoil and mulch and spread it all with my bare hands. I hauled in stones for delineating the beds and pathways — over four hundred of them. I planted eight trees, twenty-eight bushes, and more perennial flowers and herbs than I can count. So now, I have to keep the weeds out and the mulch fresh.
Yesterday, I started the job. I cleaned out one bed.
There’s just something about being outdoors in expectant late winter when one day after weeks of cold and wind and even snow and ugly ground, the sun shines and sends down warmth. My soul feels a need to be a part of it, and so I walk my little plot of land and look at buds on tree limbs, hopeful, and blueberries wanting to break forth, and irises rising up anew. It all sends a push of joy up from my chest.
There’s nothing more satisfying than surrounding myself with life and growth and fun and memories of places I’ve been and people I love.
And I know … I will find a way and a place to plant something new in that full yard once spring comes to stay.