Southern California is enveloped in an enormous pewter-colored cloud which opens its jowls and sends down tiring and unstoppable ribbons of rain which bounce off the concrete and saturate my cactus plants which are usually very happy with the occasional drop of water I feed them every other day. It is going to rain for another week and I am already missing the view of the perfect blue skies from my patio. Seriously, this is southern California. We have ordinances against excessive precipitation. We had a special election just this past November that did for clouds what Arizona did to illegal immigrants. Show your papers or find the door. Law enforcement is clearly not up to snuff.
And yet, I am not allowed to complain. As soon a I uttered a word on Facebook, lamenting our meteorological misfortunes, my sister took photos from her window in Frankfurt, Germany with her iphone, capturing chunks of snow burying her street, drifting along foundations and stranding parked cars. My beloved sister’s comment: “THIS is winter!”
Our friends in Cleveland are disdainful about our newly acquired Californian airs and remind us daily of almost forgotten terms like “snow day” and “lake-effect snow”. I want to understand. I want to commiserate. I really want to comfort them and promise falsely that the winter will not last for seven months, as it usually does. But I have fallen into the California rut, even though I do not glue my nose to the window to watch the rain fall and I refrain from calling it “THE STORM!” Husband says he was once in a rain forest themed bar in Savannah, Georgia where he got wetter than this.
We do not watch much TV, but Husband has a dozen cities’ weather programmed into his iphone, and he recites the temperatures and the weather conditions that our friends and family are experiencing. He does this for me every day. Not that I ask – I am perfectly content to pout, drain my plants of the excess water, and plan a braised meat dish for dinner. But I get the reports, like it or not. Belgrade, 32F, mostly cloudy; Frankfurt, 25F, snowing; Cleveland, 16F, snowing occasionally; Kansas City, Missouri, 17F, colder than a witches bosom. He reports the weather not as an impartial journalist, but as a gloating maniac justifying our relocation to the edge of western civilization. He just recently added Fort Myers to the list, because we sent Father to spend several days with our Serbian cousin Branka, and it makes me feel good that the temperatures are in the high 50s and 60s, and he will not freeze.
Husband wants to make me happy. He wants me to gloat too, knowing that others are suffering much harsher fates than us. He wants me to look at the glass that is at least three-quarters full. I let him drone on, excited about being so worldly with his little electronic toy, while the incessant gurgling I hear outside drives me insane. I do not open the shades as I always do first thing in the morning. I let my mole family enjoy the darkness and the artificial light. I come home from work and I do not complain if I have to squint to recognize a human form in the blob that runs to hug me, while there is no natural light at all.
My customers at work are not helping at all. They come wrapped in coats, sweaters, gloves, and scarves, wearing boots, asking for hot tea and oatmeal (whoever orders the oatmeal in the restaurant?), complaining of the long drives from Los Angeles. Only then my Midwestern persona awakes to remind them that we are, indeed, considered to be lucky in this weather draw. I retell the horror stories of the cars fishtailing for 360 degrees on ice-packed, snow-covered streets. I describe in vivid detail the terror of driving in icy rain, and inevitably suggest that they see Ang Lee’s brilliant movie The Ice Storm. And for a finale, I leave a memory of the Valentine’s Day in 2007, when the lake effect snow buried the western suburbs of Cleveland. Husband had a twenty minute commute from work. He arrived three hours later, only to find the driveway shoveled and clean. To this day that was his best Valentine’s present from me. And it better be! Do not ask me how many hours it took me to battle the incoming snowflakes and lead him into the garage.
I am absolutely content with 75F all year long. And, usually, that is what we get. But on an odd week we have to accept the rain. And I really look forward to the rain most of the time. I am at home, feeling the sentimentality just coming straight on with every little sound the raindrops make outside. I understand that language and it translates into wonderful, warm, nostalgic prose. Usually. But not this time.
I do not want to go to work. There are harpies there, and Minotaurs, and simple street bullies. They conspire and lie. Every day I walk in is a gamble: what circle of Dante’s Inferno will be my home today? I face uncertainty, Machiavellian intrigue, and plain old games of framing. For the last two months I have assumed a role of Norma Rae at work. I know that I have to fight my windmills alone. And I do. I made a lot of noise and I am not ready to silently go away.
Translated, it means that I wake up every morning before 6 a.m. with my heart wanting to break out of my chest. The adrenalin is too much to bear and I sit up in bed covered in sweat, feeling every pulse whooshing along, inviting an invisible, but existing elephant to assume a comfortable place atop my lungs. At night, fortified by a glass of wine, or two, I am overly optimistic. In the morning I have to conjure up all of the Disney princesses to charm me into leave the house.
It is really late, and my girls are asleep, buried by an avalanche of stuffed animals. I think that my soliloquy today at work was hitting all the areas of interest, even though my face and chest exhibited the obvious signs of “allergy to stress” with all the splotches of red in an erratic design. But whatever happens, I am ready to take back my life, make ornaments and pretty cookies with my girls, watch an old movie, read the pile of books that only kept growing while I was in the grey daze, and reconnect with some wonderful people I had left in check, trying not to spread the poison of misery.
While my family slept, I made Dorie Greenspan’s sweet and spicy nuts, which everybody raved about on our French Fridays with Dorie group. My youngest does not like the nuts when they are whole or chopped, only when ground (yes, she has OCD thanks to Father who was kind enough to make sure that gene will live on and on). But right now, I don’t care if the girls don’t like them and continue breathing (all that annoying in and out of the oxygen)… I need a lot of sweetness and spice. I’ll take a photo before I devour them, but I’ll have to be careful with the tags on this one. Between the staging and shooting and eventual devouring, don’t take it the wrong way when I say, I can’t wait to get my hands on those nuts.