Friday, January 17, 2020
When Roo Roo and I left the house for our afternoon dog walk, heavy gray clouds flirted with a pale blue sky; after all the rain we’d had the air was musty, yet cool. I was on a time frame so it would be a quicker dog walk than usual.
I had dressed in happy clothes; a black jersey sweat shirt, “Pray for Snow,” was adorned with the rhinestone outline of a woman, ski poles in hand, knees bent, body leaning forward, going down the mountains. I wore a pair of blue denim tennis shoes that sported a gold tiara on one foot and a silver ladybug on the other. My feet hurt, the shoes were a little snug and I probably ought to tell the family to go up a size in their spangly-shoe, Christmas gift-giving, but I won’t.
My feet are already too big for a (once) petite southern lady to own up to. I’ll just scrunch my toes a little tighter.
A short while later, done with the afternoon trek, I unhooked Roo Roo and sank into a recliner. Stump-legged Petey Poo curled down beside me. I checked my watch.
4:25. The gold minute hand moved forward.
4:26. The moments glided toward a remembered journey and as I have done so many times on this day, my thoughts floated like swirling snowflakes. I thought back to another year.
January 17, 2007
Today would be a real first. Willard and I were apart on our wedding anniversary –we had married in 1958, and this would be number 49. I was in Steamboat Springs; my husband had stayed in Jackson because of a bad back. All these years we’ve been married, no matter where Willard was, or what he was doing, even if he had been in the E.R. with a patient, somehow he had been able to call me at exactly 4:30 in the afternoon on our anniversary.
Expecting the same today, I intended to be at Rebel Hollow, our Colorado vacation home to answer the phone, so I quit skiing early. Standing at the top of Vagabond, I had allowed myself one moment to admire the scene. The snow looked as smooth as a white linen tablecloth. When I started down though, I realized the unruffled expanse in front of me had been deceptive. Up close, the slope was bumpy and slick, so I unconsciously began repeating a comforting formula. “Weight forward. Headlights on your knees. Pick a spot, turn.” Unfortunately, I hit a patch of corduroy ice, and trying to catch myself, began a backward slide.
If anybody was watching, not a pretty sight. I’m sure my body looked like I was being jolted with shots of electricity, as heart in my mouth, I frantically flailed my arms and tried to gain control of my skis and body. I managed to twist myself forward, and when I did, fell into a nasty spin. My body slid to a stop, but because of an old ankle injury I couldn’t get up.
I’m going to be late, I agonized as skiers swished by. Glaze-eyed, hot-shot snow boarders crunched dangerously close to where I lay. A young girl finally saw my plight, took pity, stopped, and extended a ski pole. With her help, I managed to get to my feet.
By the time I’d made it to Rebel Holler our kitchen wall read, 4:25. I had made it with five minutes to spare.
When my husband calls, he always asks the same question, but of course with a different number for the year. “Do you know where you were 30 years ago today?”
4:35 p.m. One minute led to another. Then another. No call. Is the bloom finally off the rose? After all this time. I couldn’t help but wonder.
4:37. The phone rang.
“I’m beating you to it,” I said. “Do you know. . .?”
“Congratulations,” a raspy, unfamiliar voice grated in my ear. “You have been pre-approved, to pay off the mortgage on your home.”
“Sir,” I said. “Sir. You have the wrong number.”
“Just provide us with the following information,” the voice droned.
I hung up the phone.
After a few seconds it rang again.
“Give us your social security number--”
“I was just about to call you back,” I said to the foreign sounding man. “When did they let you out of the Folsom State Prison? Do you still like to strip and dance naked on the bar counters? If you do, let’s meet at the Inferno. Give me 15 minutes.”
I slammed down the receiver.
After that the house was quiet. Too quiet. I decided to telephone my husband.
“Do you know where you were 49 years ago today?” I asked, not trying to hide my irritation.
His answer was not what I expected. “Eating ice cream and cake.”
“After all these years, you forgot,” I accused him. “You don’t know how hard it was for me to be here to take your call. And then I didn’t get one.”
“I phoned an hour ago.” I heard a deep sigh. “Colorado’s an hour behind Jackson. You’re on mountain time, Lottie.”
“ But---to answer your question. Forty-nine years ago today we were at your mother’s house on Eagle Avenue.”
Friday, January 17, 2020
And now, on this January day, 2020, like an echo trapped in a canyon, I made out the lingering sound of his words.
“And I had just married …”
4:37. I put Roo Roo in the laundry room, and Petey Poo in the back bathroom then went to the dining room buffet. I picked up a faded, edge-fringed note and read, as I do every year on this date, at this time.
Fifty years ago on Windermere Terrace I prayed every night that God would give you to me.
On January l7, 1958, he answered my prayers.—Willard.
“January l7, 1958 was the best day of my life,” I whisper.