Sunday, February 17, 2013

It's Always Sunny In Berks County...Sometimes

Mondays are always unwelcome...especially travel Mondays. First off, you tend to be up much earlier than any other day of the week so you can catch a flight. Traffic to the airport seems worse as business commuters jockey for position to get to work or the airport on the week's busiest travel day. The TSA lines tend to be longer...the flights fuller. Yet this past Monday I had none of the typical Monday Travel blues. I awoke a bit later than normal as my flight did not leave until close to 11 AM. With the later departure I figured my traffic battles would be minimal so I even could leave the house a bit later. I had already been notified that I was upgraded on my first leg of the trip...and I was going to Florida! Yes, Florida in February. Is there anything better when you live in the north? I don't think so. Unless you already live there...we used to.

It's funny how weather can impact your mood. My wife has been in a semi state of denial that we don't still live in Florida despite the fact we moved "back north" in 2003. Stops in Connecticut and Michigan before Pennsylvania certainly hardened her to the harsh reality of winter again (we call it the black, white and blue months because it is as if the color gets sucked out of everything until spring arrives...and the happiness factor goes away too). I recall when we left Florida for Connecticut (Orlando to Newtown...a GREAT town by the way). We left sunny and 78 degrees and twenty four hours later (we drove) we were in cloudy and 21 degrees. Our arrival was less than ideal. My wife had allowed me to pick out the house after a series of trips together had proven unsuccessful and we were under a deadline. This would be her first look at the new house other than the ten seconds I had taped on the video camera before the battery died.

We arrived mid-afternoon on a Sunday and the three kids and dog (we only had one then...she was so good we later decided we needed two) could not wait to get out of the car. I was excited too...for a second. As the kids struggled to undo seat belts and Sue tried to get Megan out of her car seat, I released the dog. She bounded out of the car, hit some ice in the poorly cleared driveway and wiped out. She struggled to get up and fell again...and again. She looked like a new born colt trying to get her footing. This all took place in a span of five seconds. I realized too late that the passenger side of the car was a complete sheet of ice. One by one, each child took two steps out of the car and bit it. First Jim, then Bennett and finally Megan. As Sue tried to catch each child she too went down...I could only watch, cringe...and listen. The cries were deafening...and echoing in the wooded zone of Taunton Lake. The dog...she was gone. She had found her footing and after years in Florida, the Connecticut woods were too much for her black lab instincts and she took off in search of whatever black labs search for.

We helped the kids and I could tell my Norman Rockwell moment was not to be. My wife's face said it all...This is so not Florida and why do people live here. Never mind that she had been born in Philadelphia and had grown up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We met in Washington, D.C. The only time she had been to Florida was on some feeble attempt of a spring break trip sponsored by her high school to Disney. She spent more time driving to and from than she did in the park.

We gathered the shivering, sniffling children and struggled to the front door where we made our way up ice covered steps. As I put the key in the lock my hopes grew again. My wife turned around to see why I had bought the house. It faced a lake. Her mood seemed immediately "buoyed" even if the lake was frozen. Mr. Rockwell...resume painting please! As I turned the key I said to her..."It needs a bit of work but you're going to love it". I opened the door and we walked in. It was cold...and dark. There were no curtains on the windows but it was dark...from all the nicotine on the windows. The previous owner had been a smoker...or perhaps ran a tobacco factory in the home. My wife's mood was darkening too as she realized the house needed a lot of work...I moved quickly from empty room to empty room showing them the great floor plan, the two fireplaces, the "view" as I wiped a window smearing soot all over my hand as I tried to see out.

The kids were confused but happy the dog had returned. I decided to show them the basement...to cheer them up as it was "finished" and going to be a great source of many happy memories for my family. It too was dark and had ridiculously bad carpet that smelled of...something familiar but awful. My wife was not impressed and the first tear began to roll down her cheek. About that time I figured out the smell...so did the dog as she decided to conduct a "business" meeting... right in the middle of the room. The previous owner's dog had apparently used the basement as its "conference" room and Chia (yes that was her name) decided to offer her two cents...more like a buck fifty actually...the painting was in jeopardy again.

A week after we moved in, Megan (age four at the time) continued to arrive downstairs each morning in her shorts and flip flops. It was January. We explained to her that Connecticut had seasons and some of them were cold. She announced that "Seasons were stupid...and they should only be warm". We did not disagree. For the record, my wife shed some tears when we left. In a mere eighteen months that house, Newtown and Connecticut had won us over.

So last week I found myself on my way back to the sunshine state...if only for a week. I could not look my wife in the eyes as I departed...I was feeling guilty leaving her behind. The drive to the airport took much longer than expected, meaning I had to run to make my flight. I don't run for flights anymore...life is too short. But Florida flights are different.  I made it. The flight to Atlanta was really rough. I did catch an earlier connection to Tampa but sat in a middle seat to do so. Trust me I debated this but the idea of getting to Florida sun and warmth outweighed the pain the middle seat brings.

My week in Florida was uneventful. There was sun for a day and a half followed by three days of rain. It did not matter as I was in training for the week in a windowless conference room...a real conference room. Valentine's Day came and went and my co-workers and I did our best to pretend it never happened but this is difficult when you go out to dinner...which we all did. A series of lucky breaks allowed me to catch earlier flights from Tampa and then Atlanta. I again had middle seats but it beat getting home at 11PM on a Friday night. As I left Tampa the clouds were breaking and the sun was trying to shine. It was 62 degrees. When I arrived in Philadelphia the sun was out and it was 55 degrees...almost as good as Florida. Over the weekend a co-worker sent a follow up email which started "Greetings from Chilly Florida". It was 59 degrees there. Back home in Pennsylvania it was 29 degrees with 40 mph winds...as I opened the email my wife walked by and put the snowflake book on our coffee table away, cursed Punxsutawney Phil and muttered something about seasons being stupid.




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