Appreciate the Wonder You Have

Yesterday was a really nice day. The end.

Preferably, the sunny hours could have stayed … forever. A story never ending, really. These months of cold weather since last November have been sitting on our collective last nerves. Look, it’s not like ice, snow, and freezing temperatures aren’t familiar around here. Western PA thermometer mercury dips replace delicious chocolate and vanilla outside concession scoopy ice cream dips for five months during this span between November and March. Local mom and pop dipperies close down their shops as “hunkerin’ down” becomes a way of life. Wind chills replace the goosepimples of a warm summer’s day rare bird sighting while the sight of exhales overcomes our patience. We see our breath, reminding us not only of our aliveness, but also our early spring reality in PA : still cold.

Yes, still glacially glib. Showing little regard and interest in our overall well-being it is … this pre-spring coldness we seasonally experience. Which makes the very short story of yesterday a breathtaking tale. This being one story you could Chekhov the list of famous short stories written by me – a so-much-less famous author of short story fame.

We are, as of today, ten days away from the official start of spring. March 20th is the spring equinox. Here in PA (the Northern Hemisphere, of course), the sun will begin to hit us kinda’ better increasing daylight and increasing temperatures. Key words: increasing temperatures!! … Two very nice, considerate words crossing the equator approximately 240 hours from now. We anticipate them the same as a triple melty cone of teaberry from the Meadows Original Frozen Custard stand in the middle of July. I, as well, look ahead to increased lines of wondrousness as my customers free themselves from cars and stand, comfortably, outside my trailer.

Fifty-five degrees is barely past one-eighth of a circle, but it came full-circle for us yesterday. Not quite enough to be light jacket free, the sun on weary bodies was a delight, however. Attitudes were bright. Outlooks unclouded. Words spoken expressed joy in the now … not thrown about, carelessly addressing a future unknown to anyone. “Isn’t this a lovely day!?”. “Wow, I’m enjoying this!”. “Can’t believe we have this sun in the sky now … what a treat!”. “How about this?” I spent my three hours open simply enjoying words spoken from the sun – through people – to me – … and now to you. This could be the end of my very short story today.

But, it can’t be.

As I waited for my dad and his friend for a late lunch yesterday at a local restaurant, a very touching text from a lovely high school friend came through on my phone. I was alone – sitting by a window where the sunshine’s warmth came rushing in – when a ping from my phone bounced off the iced tea glass just placed in front of me by a favorite waitress of mine. As clear as the sun’s reflection in that glass, I lived the memories she wrote:

“I wish I could make this shorter but gotta tell u something on my mind – especially after the post about a “Sisters Bday”. When I was a kid coming to your house for piano lessons (don’t know exact age) but I was there. I was always early or very punctual. Your Mom (gracious as always) had me sit in this chair inside the door to the left as I remember and behind the piano. Said she would be with me shortly. So I was the outsider looking in. Was nervous bcuz didn’t want to think I was watching but I observed. So whoever was there, went about their business. Never made me feel unwelcome or like an intruder . Then I would hear sounds of family like kitchen cabinets or plates or oven or just kitchen sounds. If anyone passes by… briefly… no big deal.. a nod or of course I was looking down.. but never ever felt uncomfortable. The point is I was lucky enough to be the outside looking in to a wonderful mother taking care of her family. Yet…. when it was time for me. Her focus was on me- just me and my music and my playing and what I could practice on. She was wonderful. So I was an outsider looking in until it was my turn. I had her full attention with no distractions. In a world today with cell phones, zoom, internet, Alexa… I appreciate the wonder that I had. Just wanted u to know.”

This was her story of my mom. My friend wanted her text to be shorter, but it was the perfect length. Perfect words for me to hear. A small chapter in the story of my mom that truly never ends for me.

I love that second to last sentence she wrote. Love it! “I appreciate the wonder that I had.”. My only regret is I didn’t come up with such a resplendent seven-word phrase to describe the day yesterday. It was a beautiful day … a span of time during which we had warmer hearts to share with each other and kinder words to say. It was, indeed, a welcome sight: that big yellow ball with its glow of snugness shining down on soon to be filled cones of peopleness.

Take today – whatever it brings for you – to appreciate the wonder you have. Ten days, here, will go by quickly and spring days are bound to unleash sensational scoops of fantastical flavors we can finally enjoy after five months of … well, let’s say waiting. Marking time as only western-Pennsylvanians can do.

One breath at a time.

Oh, Wait!

You can’t tell from this picture. It’s an ugly day. I sit on my very familiar hard metal chair and look out the serving window at the driving rain. There are no customers to obstruct my view.

Cars slosh through Plank Road puddles 25 yards away while, behind me, I hear anxious autos screech to a stop on Rt. 36N not fully aware a red light – which has been there for years – just made it’s way from yellow. The hustle hasn’t stopped amid an early November rain storm. I may not see the hustle here at this very busy intersection today, however. So, I sit.

I sit and wait. It’s ok. Folks see my business differently in bad weather. They aren’t in a food-festive frenzy if the sun isn’t shining … especially when it comes to concession trailers, trucks, and carts. Seasonal is pretty much the best way to describe what we do … although, it’s somewhat limiting. We’re weatheral and crowdal more than seasonal. Give us foodies good weather and sizable crowds? … We’re stuffing our buns all the way to the bank.

That’s what makes today one of the “You’ll have days like this” days. “Suck it up, buttercup”, wet, damp, what-am-I-doing-here kind of slow tick-off the minutes slosh through days. Days when I can comfortably type off hundreds of words without looking up through a concession window – knowing I probably didn’t miss a hungry customer.

Enough about my waiting moments in the here and now. What I do now, and what I’ve done the past fifteen years, have always been for the future. Which makes me think about today … eight days after a very contested election. You remember … that whole Presidential thing we did last Tuesday?

We voted for the future we wanted. We wanted something to change OR for what we liked to stay the same. In either case, it was for the future of America. Nominees Biden and Harris were change and incumbents Trump and Pence were same. Pretty close to half our country voted one way, the other half voted opposite. Without getting into the weeds here, that was what the little bubbles on the ballot were for and, eight days later – for the most part – we have our answer.

… and that answer is:

We spent months, prior to November 3rd, looking out our political, ideological, philosophical, and spiritual trailers at some really nasty campaign weather … waiting for calm, sunny weather that we could take to the bank. Ideas that most of us – left and right, Democrat and Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Atheist and Christian – could deposit together on November 4th.

Instead, we have arguments about ballots, fraud, state tampering, Republicans squealing about election abuse that seemed to be o.k. four years ago, Democrats wanting unity after 4 years of nothing but the opposite, and a Congress, in general, that is as inept as my $0 balance in the register.

If you’re sensing my independent and stubborn streak here, welcome to the “Why is Doug looking at me that way?” club. I adore my friends and have a high level of respect for their opinions and beliefs. I’ll listen to other opinions and consider changing my mind. We have to co-exist. We need to get along. I’m a middle child as well with an older sibling who is a take-charge personality, and I have a younger sibling who is more stubborn than I. The appeasement gene is strong in my blood, too. I adapted early on.

All this to say, we’re going to be ok, but it’s not going to be easy for a bit here. For the next few months, all of us should be patient while we sit in an uncomfortable chair, looking out at some rather nasty political weather these early winter months. I thought, maybe, November 3rd the skies would clear, but they didn’t.

Here’s hoping January 20th will be sunny … and I’ll be looking out my concession window at a long line of hungry customers. Ain’t happening now.

Oh, wait!! … I see a customer!!