February announced its arrival to Cleveland yesterday with the grandest of entrances. The sun rose in the sky and parked her fine self there for most of the day. Nary a cloud dared to approach the stage.
Local meteorologist Scott Sabol said this is the first time we’ve seen more than a wink from the sun since December 15, 2023. Nobody living here has the nerve to dispute his account. The man knows his weather and we know what we’ve been through.
Today’s National Weather forecast is for clouds all day, except for a single hour of sunshine that may or may not begin around 4 p.m. Good grief, here I am talking about the weather. I couldn’t be more stereotypically Midwestern if I were walking toward the table carrying a casserole of tuna noodle and yelling at the kids to put the trivet on the table before my arms break.
This morning our six-year-old granddaughter said she hopes the groundhog sees his shadow. (I always assume the groundhog is male because what woman thinks anyone cares about the shade at her feet?) This granddaughter was born hot and loves cold weather. Just like me, just like my mother. The furnace gene, Mom used to call it. I don’t believe in Hell, but if I did, I imagine it would be an endless loop of outdoor grilling in August.
Every year I hang a new calendar that covers the side of the cabinet next to our kitchen sink. For about a decade now, I’ve bought the calendars from a company in Rhode Island called Modern Printed Matter, owned by designer Anna Cote. Each month, the calendar features another colorful illustration of frolicking wildlife having a lot more fun than I do before coffee.
In January, a penguin was diving in the ocean, trailed by dozens of bubbles. This month, a Beluga whale is bobbing in the water, staring at me and wondering why I’m rinsing plates before putting them in the new dishwasher. (I could write an entire essay about this rinse-don’t-rinse debate, but should I? Let me know.)
I don’t use the wall calendar for marking important dates. I just like its palette of possibilities. A calendar full of open days allows me to stand at the sink and feel the breeze of an unscheduled moment. Soon enough, I check the bulging itinerary on my phone calendar and snap out of it with a sigh. I’m lucky to be in demand, I remind myself, but sometimes I imagine a world without me racing around in it. Can’t help but notice how the Earth keeps spinning.
I’m not a superstitious person, and yet I do have a rule about the calendar on our wall. I never switch to the next month until it’s here. Even if I’m leaving town and know we’ll be in a new month by the time I return, I leave it alone. To change it early is to rush time, and I don’t want to wish away a single day. I’m not sure when I started doing this, but I imagine it was around the time I was nearing the age of my mother when she died. I’ve lived four years longer than that, and acknowledging the gift of these days keeps me grateful.
I’m not claiming to be good at this all the time. Just this past Tuesday, I was stuck in a crawl of rush hour traffic at the end of a long day, and not once did I think about how lucky I was to be alive. The highly evolved souls among us would suggest that this was precisely the time when I could have paused to count my blessings. They are right, of course, but please don’t put them in a car with me when I’m driving. Safety first.
Two evenings ago, my friend Sue and I went to a store to buy large appliances because that’s what women do here in winter. I needed a new refrigerator and now that I’ve purchased one I have to figure out how our waterline is attached to the old one because the deliverymen won’t be allowed to touch it if it’s in the basement. I had no idea a waterline was involved, and I wish I hadn’t said that out loud to my husband as I was using the ice maker attached to our fridge.
Sue was shopping for a snowblower. This endeavor was a master class for me from beginning to end. I have never used a snowblower, but it’s part of Sue’s identity as a frontier woman in the suburbs. Her old one broke during our recent big snowstorm—I’m going to be hearing about that for the next decade—and she is certain another blizzard is on the way, probably around Easter. Laugh and I’ll know you’re not from Cleveland.
The salesperson who helped us was a full-time schoolteacher who works at the store three nights a week. Listening to her discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each model of snowblower made me wonder, yet again, why women aren’t running everything. She made all the time in the world for us, which was great because that’s how long Sue needs to make a major decision.
After taking longer than I do to pick out a house, Sue bought a snowblower on sale. The next day, on February 1st, the sun came out and the schoolteacher called to let Sue know the price had dipped another $100. “Bring in your receipt,” she said, “and we’ll refund your money.”
I doubt that could have happened in January. Things change when the sun shows up.
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