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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Travel Through Space

My head was spinning. Think of having your brains flung round in a centrifuge, and you’ll have an idea about my current state of mind. In fact, I was so stressed that I wasn’t eating. That’s stressed, I’m telling you.

Two and a half weeks ago, Steve got a contract for a consulting gig at the Hanford Nuclear Waste Site in Washing ton State, so two weeks ago we packed up his clothes and golf clubs and sent him off. That gave me two weeks to get my own act together.

Steve wanted some professional books so on Friday I jammed them into a flat rate box and sent them to his office. Tossed in the camera and binoculars, too, since they’re heavy. I called the cleaners and set their last mission to the house.

I checked out the calendar and realized that we had ballet tickets the 22nd. I had to give away the tickets for Alice in Wonderland and Noche Latina, but was I going to skip out on a presentation of Twyla Tharp choreography? I don’t think so. A performance on Wed. meant I could fly out Friday morning. I had standard blood work the previous Wednesday morning and then stopped into the AAA Office to get my own airplane tickets for Friday, Feb. 24. Once I set that date, I could go about cancelling newspapers, trash collection , etc.

Steve checked out apartments and sent pictures. We selected one. He gave me the phone number of the furniture rental company we had chosen, and between their pictures and conversations I had with their incredibly helpful representative, we’ve got the Two Bedroom Package which includes lamps, living room furniture and a table with four chairs.

I threw most of my clothes and some of Steve’s warm weather clothes into two large suitcases. Because I want what I want, I also put in my very small sewing machine. Hey, if he can have his golf clubs, I can have an 11 pound sewing machine! Of course, the overflow had to go somewhere so there’s a bunch of stuff that will arrive courtesy of UPS.

Steve’ books were delivered Tuesday, only no one had it. No one called him to pick them up, I sent him the e-mail confirmation Thursday morning. I’d addressed the package to his company in Suite 301, but the correct address was 302. He told me the address over the phone, so we don’t know whose mistake that was -- just as well. Note that there are two suites per floor in this building, so where could they have gone? In any case, the package was delivered SOMEWHERE, and Steve spent a couple of hours talking to people in every suite in the building, people in the buildings next door and the lady at the post office. No luck.

Wednesday evening my friend and I went to the Kennedy Center café for a light dinner and the ballet. Lovely.

I went on line to check in on Thursday afternoon only to discover that they had mis-issued my tickets for March 24. WHAT? WHAT!!! So the time I was going to use to finish binding a little quilt I was making was spent getting on Friday’s flight.

Steve called to say the furniture was delivered fine, but the Master Bed Room suite wasn’t the one we’d ordered. I flashed off a quick e-mail to my rep, ate up all the left-overs in the house and took out the garbage one last time.  Of course, all this planning and settling is done over a three hour time lag which makes communication all the more interesting. 

My wonderful neighbor Polly took me to the airport Friday morning. She assured me -- based on no knowledge but much good will -- that Steve would have the box when I arrived in Pasco. I was the only person interested in checking in curbside. My huge and heavy (but under 50 pounds) suitcases went sailing off. No one seemed to be flying so I had plenty of time to get through security (NO ONE was in the security point check-through ahead of me!) and have a bite at Starbucks.

My layover was in Denver where I connected with the furniture rental woman who had already corrected their error. I called Steve who was going crazy over which black hole the box had disappeared into. I found a quiet place in the airport lounge and enjoyed the bread and butter, hard boiled eggs, cheese and apple I’d packed and cruised the kiosks.

I had an hour to read at the gate, hopped on the plane and two hours later landed. Steve was all grins, not only to see me but because the office woman had never checked her mailbox. The key to the package delivery box was in it, and his professional books were retrieved.

I dived into the black hole and have emerged on the other side. I’m here! I’m here! I’m here!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Sweetest Kiss

My husband and I went to Ruth’s Chris for Valentine’s Day. I had a medium-rare fillet and garlic mashed potatoes and Chocolate Sin cake. Mmmmm. The only downside was that our romantic dinner was last Friday, February 10th. On Sunday, he flew off to his new job in Washington State where he gets to joyfully work on a nuclear waste problem. Go, Steve!

Monday morning, I packed up the Valentine’s Day decorations that were hanging around mocking me. That’s okay; we had our nice time. An early Valentine’s Day is still Valentine’s Day -- to me, anyway.

Tuesday was a little sad, though. There was no one next to me when I woke up; no one in the house; no  Valentine’s Day kiss. I went to dance class and then participated in a demonstration at the Fairfax County Courthouse where Karen Rasmussen and Barbara Bream, two members of my church, applied for (and were denied) a marriage license in the good Old Dominion. I returned home to set up for my tutorial session. I was busy and didn’t give the holiday another thought.

At 4:30, the doorbell rang and a seven-year-old duly presented himself for reading instruction. “Thank you for helping me get better in my reading,” he said (I image an obedient repetition from parental coaching) and held out a big red envelope and small golden box in hand. (Is that Godiva? Oh, yes. Score!)

“You made my Valentine’s Day!” I told him happily. “This is the only Valentine I got today because Mr. Steve is out of town. This is so nice!”
He told a long story about selecting the card which I didn’t quite catch as it was rattled off at about 300 words per minute. We sat on the couch where I opened the card, read it aloud and stood it up on the work table.
The boy, whose classic grin is missing two front teeth, slid across the couch and wrapped his little arms about my neck and gave me a gentle hug. Then I got a spontaneous kiss right on my cheek. He scooched back and shyly looked at the floor.
I’m telling you, that was the sweetest Valentine.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Armchair Raccoon

I’m hesitant to indulge you with this story because, well, what will you have to look forward to? But a promise is a promise, and you have been patient, so here it is.

Many years ago, when Elaine Cat was young, Steve had a business trip to Las Vegas. We had lived there for 11 years, so we added some time and joined him to visit old friends, check out the new Excalibur Casino and hike in the Valley of Fire one more time. (Oh, and let’s be honest, we wanted to climb Atl Atl rock again, where Kirk dies in Star Trek: Generations. We’re a family of nerds.) During the trip, I called our house-sitter Sheila to see how things were going.

“I think Elaine’s really angry.”

“Elaine’s angry?”

“Yeah, she opened the pantry door and got into the cat food.”

“She can’t do that.”

“No, I think she can. When I got up a couple of days ago, there was cat food all over the kitchen floor. I cleaned it up, but she did it again last night.”

How odd, I thought, She’s never done that before. When we got home, I sealed the cat food in a large plastic bag and put it on a high shelf and made sure I closed the door tightly.

A few nights later, in the middle of the night, I awoke to a clittering and scrabbling. I thought it was Elaine playing with her imaginary friends, but she lay at my feet, ears perked. When I sat up, she skedaddled under the bed.

I tiptoed down the hall and peeked through the doorway into our family room/eating area/kitchen. The pantry door was opened.  I poked my head out further. Sitting up on the sofa, relaxed as you please, was a Halloween-masked, luxuriently-furred raccoon.

Did you ever see the commercials several years ago with two raccoons sitting on recliners, watching TV with remote controls in their paws? I swear this was a raccoon from that ad. What’s more, as I emerged from the hallway, she merely looked at me.  That was it:  one impertinent glance. How did she get in? Ah, her second glance was toward the cat door!

Now, our family has hiked and camped and rafted our way throughout the West. I have a healthy regard for wild animals, and there was no way I was going to put myself between a raccoon and its point of exit. Instead I jumped up and down, screamed and shouted and clapped my hands. (Yes, you would think this would have roused the rest of the household, but you would be wrong.)

The raccoon stood up, thought a bit (long enough for me to consider shutting the hall door, me on the other side of it) and raced down the stairs and through the cat door. Flip flap!

One raccoon sitting on your couch is pretty cute. If, however, you foresee a raccoon and five babies, it is less endearing. Every night for a month, I blocked the cat door (Poor Elaine, I thought. Truthfully, she spent the night on my feet anyway.) I kept the porch light on all night. After that, we had no more nocturnal visits from masked bravadoes.

Come spring, I wondered how the squirrels were emptying our squirrel-safe bird feeder EVERY DAY. One twilight I looked out to see our raccoon showing a couple of friends how to hold down the spring-loaded feeding tray with one hand and shovel food into her mouth with the other. She turned her head and gave me an identical sassy stare before going back to the feast.