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Stories that Maybe May Be-The Secret In the Snow

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2016

The Secret In the Snow

 He gave P-Nut one last hug and one last whisper, “Hurry!”

He gave P-Nut one last hug and one last whisper, “Hurry!” From The Secret In the Snow © Jo Hewitt 2016


Asher and Parisa had spent the day searching for the Secret in the Snow, from the last twinkle of the Morning Star until the Sun, tired of climbing higher and higher, leading them and their dog P-Nut through the snow covered meadows and wooded areas to  the hidden opening of the cave where the Rainbow Fish swam on summer days, decided it would stop and begin the trek back to the world on the other side of night. It was then, when they had carefully stepped inside the cave they saw it. It was amazing like nothing they had seen before.

The snow had followed them. It’s foot steps getting bigger and bigger to match the shadow it was leaving on the land. They wanted Mommy and Daddy to see the cave and the secret inside. But if they left now, the Snow would hide the opening to the cave forever and ever. They decided to stay, to guard the opening to the cave and its magic. They would send P-Nut back to get Mommy and Daddy, to bring them to the cave with the Secret.

Parisa kept watch on the growing Snow as Asher whispered into P-Nut’s ear, “Go get Mommy and Daddy! Bring them here.”

He gave P-Nut one last hug and one last whisper, “Hurry!”

And then they waited.




Tales From The Teal Mango-Make That a Triple Shot

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2012

We were crawling out from under 460_City_Snow_Xi_copy_460a blizzard-winds 35-55 mph and anywhere from 8-14 inches of snow depending exactly where you were. A difference of two miles could give you a difference of two inches of snow. It had started one evening after Christmas with wind, lots of it, and falling temperatures. The snow stealthily came into town during the night. By mid morning we were its prisoners, captive to its whims until evening when it left town, moving on to torment its next victims. It wasn’t the worst blizzard some of us had seen-one that had winds of 70 mph and left banks of snow up 2 feet, 4-5 after the wind whipped it around a bit, and 7-10 feet after the snow plows piled it on the sides of road and parking lots. But that was okay. We really didn’t want to see one as bad as that again.

The SSB and I had been snowbound. I knew she was anxious to get out, but I had some errands to do and I couldn’t take her with me. I told her she had to stay home, I had to go but I would be back. She gave me that look of mortal pain and betrayal. I tried to bribe her with one of her favorite peanut butter treats. She would have nothing to do with it, letting it fall to the floor. She continued “that look” that screamed what an awful, neglectful, abusive owner I was to her. I left the house loaded down with my bag, the items for some of my errands, and more guilt than a Jewish mother could dish out in a lifetime of matzo balls and chicken soup.

Most of the small, independent businesses had been closed during the blizzard unlike the corporate owned malls and retail chains. Even though they were closed and had no profit for the day, a number of them offered their employees an hour of pay for the day. The owners realize that these people are not just their employees, but their friends and neighbors and therefore the heart of their business. I do as much of my business with the local independent businesses and avoid corporate retail as much as possible. So today was my day for errands. The third one on the list was at Vagabond’s End. I wanted to make arrangements for the delivery of  the kitchen cabinetry that Jacqueline had worked on for me and of course to see her. We set a delivery time. She had other clients in the shop. She told me she would be free in about 1 1/2 hours. We decided to meet then for coffee at The Teal Mango.

Jacqueline who beat me to the coffee shop, had already ordered and was sitting at a table for two near one of the south facing windows in the main area. I don’t usually sit in the main area because I have The SSB Drever with me so we sit in the piano room. It was a nice change. Maddie was offering specials on Mexican hot chocolate, a Tanzanian-Indonesian peaberry mix with natural occurring spicy earthy undertones combined with cinnamon and cardamon, or a chai tea with piquant notes of ginger and black pepper. She also had a selection of sweet or spicy options of little appetizers and munchies from Snickety Snax. I ordered the peaberry with a little chocolate and a mixed platter of munchies and sat down with Jacqueline.

A few other people were there including: Paul, the owner of “The Charleston Silver Screen”, a shop with about anything to do with movies, especially the old and the classics (Paul is quite the movie buff), Dr. Dohna Park, officially retired acupuncturist (but still carries her bag with her) and beekeeper, Jennifer Dyson, a teacher in one of the schools east of the city, some other shop owners, some other customers that pop in on an irregular regular basis,  and some new folks taking in the sights around the city while off from work for the holidays.

There were different topics of conversation in full swing by the time I sat down.

“Hey, Paul, I heard it was you that sold the blinking lights to the protestors!” Mike from the Fix It Shop called across the room to Paul. People were still talking about the brouhaha with George, Stephan, and Natalya. “Where’dya find those things?”

Paul chuckled. “Why, hello to you, Mike. Well, you see, I had been searching for some old posters, the originals ones, of course, and some other original paraphernalia from some of the classic Christmas movies, well like, It’s a Wonderful Life, for example. Now, you take It’s a Wonderful Life. It was based off a book called The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren. You  know he published the book privately by himself in 1945. It was nominated for five Oscars, the movie of course, not the book, even though it pretty much failed at the box office. Well, any way…”

“Paul, just tell me how you found those crazy lights”, Mike interjected.

“The lights, right. Well actually I don’t know. I was looking at this and looking at that online and there I was and there they were. I just thought they were pretty cool so I ordered a lot of them.”

Beside movie trivia, Paul sells other odd things in his shop.

“I was watching the protestors when they first started. They just didn’t seem to be making much impact. I went out to talk with them, showed them the lights. The tough part was getting them to agree on which side got which color. Ya know, I’m probably about the only business near the Bernardi building that made any money that day.”

“How did you do with all the snow?” someone started to ask. As if on cue, Josh Morgan came through the door. “I’m done, Miss Margo,” he said, placing his snow shovel outside the door as he stepped in after stomping the snow from his boots.

Would you like some coffee, Josh?” Maddie asked.

“Thank you, Miss Margo. But I am a little sore and achy after all of that shoveling. I’m probably going to need some rest. I’ll probably just go home and sleep,” Josh responded.

“How about some herbal tea? I have some Rishi’s Serene Dream. It’s pretty soothing.”

“That would be nice. Thank you.”, Josh replied. Maddie set him up with the tea and after that, Dr. Dohna Park set him up with an acupuncture treatment to help with all the aches, pains, and stressed muscles and tendons. Josh had done a lot of shoveling for a lot of people, including Dr. Park.

They set him up in the piano room. It was currently full of bouquets and bouquets of flowers. It was part of the apology from the VanNeely and the Bernardi LaRue’s to atone for their lurid behaviour in the Mango. Maddie lowered the top of grand piano. She brought in some blankets, sheets and pillows. She and the Doctor folded some blankets to cushion the piano surface for Josh. He was medium to small, but wiry and strong. Dr. Park set to work with the needles. Maddie lowered the lights and found a Deuter and Anugama mix of meditative music. When Dr. Park was finished, she place a light sheet over Josh and closed the French pocket doors on a room that now, with all the flowers and body covered with a sheet, vaguely resembled a funeral parlor .

Elliott Christensen muddled in. He is a security guard in a warehouse who had just come off a double shift because of the snow. He still had to make his drive home. When Maddie asked what he would like, he told her to make it a triple shot of espresso. Meanwhile the blizzard discussion had continued with everyone chiming in.

“I just don’t think it is right. If the National Weather service says people should stay off the roads, they should stay off the roads. If the schools are closed…”

“The schools were already closed. It’s Christmas break.”

“Weren’t the government offices closed? If they’re closed, shouldn’t nonessential businesses be closed? You know, like malls and things.”

“This is a right to work state. If people don’t show up, even in natural disaster situations, they could lose their jobs.”

“Right to work my foot. Right to lose your job is what it should be called”

“I think if someone was hurt or injured going to or from work in these conditions, if the business threatened them with losing their job, then that business should be held liable maybe even criminally so!”

“Maybe someone should start a petition on one of those petition sites or the White House petition site. Make it a federal law so the state governments have no right to deny anyone the right to their job. And make it a criminal offense if they do.”

“Did you hear about the guy on the snowmobile?” Jennifer asked. “He was going through the city and holding up stranded motorist at gun point. One woman was shot and killed” This coming less than three weeks after the Newtown massacre.

“If she had had a gun, that wouldn’t have happened,” added Elliott. “Everyone needs a gun or two to carry with them and a few assault weapons at home, and one with you to protect ourselves .” Anyone who knew Elliott, knew he had several guns of several types, including assault weapons. They also knew he was buying as many more as he could before there was any change in the gun laws.

“Why?” I asked. “From what?”

“Everyone knows the U.S. is becoming a police state. It allowed that shooting in Newtown to happen to give it an excuse to take all our guns aways. Then the army will come into every town and ship us off to detention centers. This all a conspiracy.” Elliott spoke again.

“Elliott, do you really think your Bushmaster is going to stop an army? ” Maddie asked. “If you really want to put a halt to the military threat, urge your elected officials to stop supporting military and especially military weapons build up. Create stronger gun controls and use our tax dollars resources to build strong communities instead”

“You are living in some idealistic La La Land. I tell you the only sane thing to do is get a gun; get several while you can!” Elliott continued. “The only way to stop gun violence is to counter it with your own gun.”

Jennifer laughed  aloud. “That is just pure craziness, Elliott. That is like saying to stop death from drunk driving is that everyone should drive drunk. Or, or,” she laughed again, ” to stop people from dying from the effects of obesity, is that everyone should shove the food in until everyone is obese. Then we’ll all be saved!”

“Elliott, you might need a little more rest and maybe little more people interaction,” I offered.

“Jo, do people keep asking you if you have a gun.” Jacqueline asked. “I mean, I don’t have a gun. I went one time to try shooting a gun. I didn’t like it. I feel as though I am being bullied to get one and I don’t want to get one. I don’t get how being a part of and contributing to violence will reduce violence.”

Meanwhile, while all of this was occurring, Margaret Teagartin had been walking her two dogs, two corgis-Teaberry and Newton, as in Fig Newton. Margaret is a little old fashioned and loves fig newtons with her tea. She loves tea also-so much that she opened a tea house on the lower tier of shops closer to the canal where she serves high tea and low tea, and probably every tea in between. This is the go to place for tea pots, tea towels, linens, and anything “tea”. She calls it Margaret’s Tea Garden.

Margaret had come down Opal Way to Golden Place North with “Tea” the brindled Cardigan and “Newt”, the caramel Pembroke. As she was passing the trees and shrubbery on her right, at the edge of Maddie’s property, she heard what sounded like gunshots to her but were in reality firecrackers illegally being set off. (It was getting close to New Years).  She made the turn to her right, continue along the walkway toward The Teal Mango to find shelter. The first thing she saw as she looked toward the building was a body covered with a sheet on top of the piano. Immediately, Margaret fumbled to get her phone out of her pocket to call 911 to report a shooting and a dead body at The Teal Mango. The dogs picked up on her excitement, ran circles around her and knocked her down. fortunately she had a soft landing in a snow drift that had made its frozen home outside the Mango.

Officer Alano Ruiz was due for a break and had been heading to Golden Heights for a bite to eat and a cup of coffee when the call came in. He had heard the “shots” on his way to The Heights, had already parked the squad car and was quickly but stealthily making his way to The Teal Mango. As he approached he saw Margaret on the ground in the snow drift.

Officer Ruiz had a keen appreciation for historical residential architecture. He was currently enrolled in an Historic Survey and Appreciation of Art and Architecture of the Edwardian Period class at the local community college. He didn’t want to ruin the beveled glass on the Mango’s entry door or damage any of the windows. Assuming the shooter was in the coffee shop based on the 911 call, he fired a warning shot into the air and ordered the shooter to come out.

Josh who had fallen asleep, between the tea, the music, and the reduction of pain from the needle placement, was roused from his sleep by the “gunshot”, the yelling and the general commotion. At this same time, Margaret had managed to crawl out of the snow drift to stand on her own two legs again. She was facing The Teal Mango and happened to look again in the window just as Josh was rising from the waist up off the piano. All she saw was a corpse rising from the dead. She swooned and was back down in the snow drift, once again oblivious to the drama around her. As soon as he had raised up his body enough, he turned to roll off the piano, hit the edge of the keys and then hit the floor.

Right before Margaret’s swoon and Josh’s fall to the floor, Elliott had positioned himself in a now slightly open entry door ready to return gun fire with the assumed attacker outside, poised ready to fire. The gunshot, and then the thud of Josh’s landing had startled Paul. His hand inadvertently knocked his teaspoon to the floor. Elliott caught the flash of light reflecting off the spoon as it fell at the same time he too heard Josh’s thud. He instinctively turned to the direction of the light as though it had been the glint of a gun and fired. Paul had just bent down to retrieve the spoon as the bullet whizzed by, just grazing his head.

Officer Ruiz could see Elliott in the door way. He knew Elliott, knew he had been working some long shifts, knew he was an avid espresso fan. He fired another shot to get Elliott’s attention and shouted to him.

Drop the gun, Elliott! Drop the Gun! Put your hands up and  drop to the ground!” 

Elliott looked around and realized the horror of what he had just done and what he could have done. He tossed the gun and dropped. Maddie was already calling 911 and Dr Park had rushed over to Paul to attend to his wound. Officer Ruiz was next to Elliott cuffing him and helping him to his feet. The ambulance had arrived. A paramedic was helping Margaret to her feet and checking her over.

Dr. Park was walking with Paul, a little light headed and woozy,  toward the ambulance. As they passed Elliott, Paul said,

“Hell, Elliot. What do you think you were doing.? I survived Nam just to get shot by my friend in a coffee shop on The Square. Damn. Thank God you didn’t have your assault weapon with you!”

It was a few days before I returned to The Teal Mango. I noticed some new signage as I came upon the entry door. It was a “no guns allowed” sign.

While Maddie was making my order, I said, “I noticed your new sign.”

She laughed. “The only shots I want around here are the ones coming from my espresso machines.”

I picked up my coffee and The SSB Drever and I headed to our usual spot in the piano room, where hopefully I would get some work done. I looked up. I could never look at that piano in the same old way again.

blue snow flakes

Tales from The Teal Mango-Christmas Saturdays.

Christmas Saturdays

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2012

The SSB Drever and I had plans for the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. I had decided I would officially declare it a non-work day, I had no intention of lugging around my notebook, and we would just enjoy the fun and sense of community at the square for Small Business Saturday.

So many people turn out, not just for the shopping, but for the lighting of the square. The weather had been unseasonably warm and it was a great day for it. Lamp posts, benches, doorways, street signs, everything is adorned with lights and seasonal greenery and other offerings from the world of nature. We have a diverse community around Jewel Square, in Golden Heights, and on Artisan’s Hill, diversity in many forms-economic, religious, ethnic, cultural, and the generations. Too many people in too many places become a little snippy about is it “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays,” or “Season’s Greetings,” or something else.  Some unspoken consensus took hold of the people around here. They just decided that the important thing was happiness and harmony, light and beauty, and just being nice, good people who are grateful every day that they are lucky enough to be here around the Jewel Box.

Somewhere along the way, the lights went up! They went up the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day one year and they stayed. They stayed through the longest night. They stayed through Christmas. They stayed through the New Year-both the western one and the Chinese one. They stayed all through the darkness of winter because that is when we need the light the most. And then they stayed some more, throughout the whole year, or at least part of the lights did. The ones that came down were replaced with others in celebration of whatever was the current season.

This is a great time to be at the “Jewel Box”; it really sparkles. There is so much going on.  The restaurants, bistros, all the little foodie places have some special offering for the day. I have always enjoyed the roasted chestnuts, like the first ones I ever had in Vienna. I love the kale chips with different flavors and spices from Snickety -Snacks. And the best pakora I have had is along the Square. There are different drink stations also-coffee, hot chocolate, spiced cider, and more . They are there for shoppers and for the good-hearted citizenry who have volunteered their time and energy for the adorning of the square. There are little boxes for donations to cover the costs of the drinks. Any extra is given to a charity selected for that season and year.

So many neat and unique little shops! There is Mike’s Hardware and Fix It Shop, The Dawg Haus-SSB’s favorite, Lauren’s place where she makes and sells her own children’s wear designs and will do custom designs on request. There is Fiona’s shop which carries organic skin and body care. Fiona also custom blends oils and extracts for the body, for candles, soaps, incense, etc. There is Vagabond’s End. That is Jacqueline’s place. She refinishes furniture, turning them into refreshed and trendy pieces. Vagabond’s End is also an outlet for many of the artists and craftsmen on the Hill.

We parked near Vagabond’s End. It is near the east end of the Square, shortly before the road that meanders along the river toward the Artisan’s Hill area. As SSB and I came upon the buttery brick building, Frank was up on a ladder placing lights and garlands over the front entrance. Sandra was feeding them up to him and people were trying to maneuver around them. So we went around to the side entrance. It was much better that way, besides, it was closer to Jacqueline’s work area.

As soon as we entered, SSB started going crazy. She had spotted her buddy KaTy, Jacqueline’s rescued canine friend. KaTy came running. Jacqueline heard the commotion and was on KaTy’s heels but not before KaTy and The SSB had begun the infamous Canine Tangle where they dance around me and wrap me up with their leashes. Jacqueline was laughing as she lured the two with treats to sit on the side.

“Thank you!”, I laughed. “I’m glad they are such good friends.”  At this point they had settled down and were busily gnawing on the “bones” she had given them.

“Did you come to see it?” she asked.

“I did.” I answered.

“It is over here. I am almost finished.”, she said. “Just a few details left.”

I walked over to the direction she had pointed. I don’t have a dishwasher. Most of my dishes I wash by hand. I had wanted some sort of cabinetry such that I could use the top as functional counter space for my kitchen, have a storage drawer, and have pull out rack type drawers with a draining rack for dishes to drain after I washed them. Somehow, she had found a small old table and turned it into what I had imagined.

“It’s beautiful, Jacqueline. I love the color. Usually, I don’t like a lot of blue, but this blue, and the antique over lay with a touch of that green, is just so nice!”

I’m glad you like. I’ll let you know when it’s finished and you can pick it up.” she said.

We chatted a little more and then The SSB and I left. We made our way to the western part of the square, chatting, laughing, and of course SSB getting her share of ear scratches and head rubs. We eventually turned to cut through the Jewel Box to cross Golden Place North and to go to The Teal Mango. Maddie had little white lights entwined through the railings along the steps and around the veranda. The sun was just right to beam off the lights and dance on the bevels of the entry door glass. I have always been pleased that she never changed the original door.

* * *

I opened the door to the sounds of the buzz of coffee talk and the little chimes Maddie has on the door. They are tuned to a soprano voice with a Mongolian tonal scale. There is happiness but tinged with a whisper of sadness of a loneliness the wind might feel on its journey across a vast plain in its song. It was quickly usurped with the hissing of steam, the clatter of cups, the clunk of a side table turning, falling to the floor as a five-year old climbed up on it to get a better view of a man chasing a golden retriever which had grabbed one of the garlands which had slipped from the man’s hand while he was up on a ladder fastening it in place on one of the street lights.

“Hi, Jo!” Maddie called out in passing as I made my way to the counter. “Be with you in a moment.” With that, a call and response sort of chorus of “Hi, Jo!” with me “Hi” -ing back to everyone there-Paul, Katie, Sarah, Brad,Ty, everyone. I love it!  I feel like Norm at Cheers.

“So what will it be today?” Maddie asked as she slid behind the counter.

“Could you make that concoction with coffee in almond and coconut milk with cinnamon and ginger that I had the other day?”


I picked up my coffee and Drevie and I walked over toward the room at the east end of the shop, through the open  French doors. I don’t know how this room was originally used, if it was a dining room, a parlor, a drawing-room. Maddie uses it as a space for her piano and for those of who have pets and want to come in for coffee. It keeps us far enough away from the food and prep area to keep her legal with the board of health. I found a cozy chair and settled in.

Some people left. Some more people came. People got up, refilled their coffee and moved around. Some of the others-Paul, Sarah, Laura and others-came to gather in the piano room. We talked about whatever was new-politics, the latest jokes-sometimes the latest jokes are the politicians, family, today’s events, the holidays. Maddie joined us when things slowed a bit.

“How about this?” she said. “Tell me a childhood memory from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, whatever holiday you celebrated, that you loved. I don’t know, something that made you happy.”

Everyone was quiet for a while, their heads in different poses, looking at the ceiling, outside, or down toward their coffee and tea cups as they thought.

Paul spoke up. “I remember the Christmas that I got a Montgomery Ward bicycle and spent the day riding.” Paul is originally from Charleston and still carries a little of it in his voice.

“I don’t think I even came home for dinner. I had seen the long thin box with my bicycle stashed in the garage. My dad explained that the box contained an ironing board for my mother. I bought the story!”

“The other memory would be my first train set. Lionel steam engine with two red passenger cars. I still have the cars and track some 76 year later.”

“Yah. A train,” Adam chimed in. “I saw my dad building this track thing on a big piece of plywood in the basement for weeks before Christmas. He told me it was for his boss. Yah, I fell for that one!” Adam and Paul both laughed.

Adam continued. “One Christmas, my dad put these notes on the tree. They were clues and we had to go through the house with the clues and try to find the gifts.”

We all laughed at that one.

“Okay, for me” Katie said, “it was lying down under the tree and looking up at the lights. We had a mixture of fat ones and bubble lights. I would stay there for the longest time.”

“For me,” Brad said, “it was sneaking to unwrap all the Hanukkah presents to see what I was getting and then to wrap them back up again so no one would know.”

Sarah began, “I’ve been thinking and my childhood memory is…I remember coming out the big heavy dark wooden doors of our little Methodist church after the Christmas eve midnight service… my grandmother, my mother, brother and me. My mom and I sang in the choir, and on Christmas eve, we always did ‘Jesu Bambino’, with good-lookin’ Eddie Balco singing the solo, “When blossoms flowered ‘mid the snow, upon a winter’s night, He gave the world it’s Christmas Rose, it’s King of love and light…” (he, Eddie, had slicked back black hair… reminds me now of John Travolta from ‘Grease’)… but I digress… We all lit candles and they turned the lights out, so we could sing Silent Night together.  My friend Diedre and I were acolytes, so we had to be dressed in robes to light candles all over the church, and then sneak out of the front, to race through the back of the alter area, down the back steps, through the basement to the back of the church, up the stairs into the balcony, to sing alto, tenor, or whatever low part was needed to ‘fill out’ the particular song we sang. Ok, so at the end of one of these memorable Christmas Eve midnight services, we opened the heavy doors to go home, and…from the darkness and drab we left, when entering church…a freshly fallen blanket of snow was transforming the world into this magical place, sparkling and new… it was truly heartening, miraculous… and even for a kid, the metaphor was not lost on me.

“We didn’t celebrate Christmas in Iran.” Mitra spoke quietly from her seat. But I have memories of Shab-e-Yalda. It is the longest night. We would sit around the korsi and eat fruits and nuts…”

“What is a korsi?” someone asked.

“Well, it is like a very low table,” she began to explain, “that is covered with quilts or thick wool blankets. There is charcoal or something to warm the space under the table. The room is cold, but we sit with the blankets over us with our feet under the blankets and the table to keep warm. We laugh and eat and stay up all night. And believe me it get very warm with the blankets and after eating all those dried fruits and nuts, well sometimes things happen and it is very, very warm.

We laughed again.

Ty talked about how his mother would talk about different virtues as she lit the candles for Kwanza. Then he said that through the year, candles weren’t the only thing that was lit when his mother wanted to instill virtues.

Laura’s memory was the time the family drove out of the city to a Christmas tree farm to pick their own tree.

“Just like the Griswolds?” a bunch of us said at once.

“Yes, just like the Griswolds.”  she replied. Laura is from Chicago.

Little by little everyone shared a little piece of their childhood holidays.

“What about you, Jo? What is your memory?”

I had been thinking. There are two memories that have stayed with me all this time.

“Christmas Saturdays,” I said.

“I grew up much farther north from here. By the time we were past Thanksgiving it was just plain dark and cold. By then I was tired from school and I really wanted Christmas vacation. So, on the Saturdays before Christmas, when I was waking up, I would do it as slowly as possible, take my time. I would lie there awhile and pretend it was Christmas and I had a break ahead.”

“The other memory,” I continued, “was the year we had all blue lights on the tree. My older brother, my favorite one, had wanted blue lights. He bought them and put up the tree that year.”

“We couldn’t have the lights on too long. It was expensive. I loved the lights, though. I still do. I would sneak down the stairs very quietly, maybe an hour or so before dawn. It was a drafty, cold, old farmhouse. I would go over to the tree and turn on the lights. Then I would go to the sofa, grab whatever scraggly blanket or afghan was on it, cover myself the best I could, try to keep warm and lie there, looking at the tree, squinting my eyes to make the lights glowing with halos. I would stay awake as long as I could and then fall asleep. The noise of the others getting up would wake me and I would scramble to turn off the lights before Mom or Dad came into the room.”

“Uhm,” someone said nodding.

Everyone remained quiet, once again looking down into their cups or out the window at the lights and the Square.

I checked my time. It was getting late. I needed to head back home. SSB and I said our thank you’s  and good-by’s. Others were leaving, too. The beveled glass door reflected and spattered the light in rhythm with the openings and closings of the door.

* * *

Sunday came and went. The week started as it always does-working, errands, keeping up with life. But Thursday was a little different. It was extremely warm. More so than it had been. It wasn’t just warm, but the air smelled and felt like spring. I was inspired to work in the beds around the house, mulch, rake leaves, odds and ends of outdoor work that was very intimate with April, but very much a stranger to December here.

The SSB had been trying to help me during the day.If I was digging, she had her paws right where my shovel was going, with her paws digging away. If I was carrying things to the garage, she would grab something else and run with it to a location she thought was more suitable. Other times she must have thought I wasn’t moving fast enough; she would come running at me full speed to show me how fast I should be going and swerve at the last minute. She isn’t called the Clydesdale Bullet for nothing!

I took a break in the afternoon to get a bite to eat and have a cup of tea. Before going in, I decided to check my mail. The mailbox was stuffed, mostly flyers and those pesky credit card offers from Chase.  I shuffled through it, quickly deciding most of it wasn’t urgent. As I turned from the box to head to the door, The Bullet came running at me. She swerved but did not totally miss me, and the wad of mail slid from my hands, landing in dry leaves the wind had blown up next to the fence where my mailbox sat. I scooped up the mail and took tit into the house, setting the pile on the table.

The weather was changing again; rain was on the way. I gathered my tools, took them to the garage, generally picked up, and SSB and I headed into the house. When the rain hit, it hit hard. Dark swirly gray skies hurled big hard drops that pounded the window-just to show us who was the boss.  Persistent, the rain continued long after the sun had given up on the day, but softened its exacting of payment during the night.

Whatever beast that storm had been, by dawn it had moved on, its heart stilled, and we were presented with another delightful day. With breakfast in the works, I took the French press out to dump yesterday’s coffee grounds around the roses near my front gate and fence. Just as I tossed the grounds, I noticed it-a piece of yesterday’s mail. Now, not only was it drenched from the rain, it was covered in old coffee and grounds. I reached to retrieve it. I turned it over as I picked it up. Darn, it was something from Maddie and it was a mess. It was so wet I couldn’t open it without it tearing to pieces. I took it in and found a place for it to dry hoping to be able to retrieve its contents later.

Friday became a busy day, as did Saturday, and Sunday, and before I knew it, it was well into the following week. I took some time to pay some bills and sort through that pile of junk mail. There, next to the flyers was that poor rain-sodden envelope. I had forgotten all about it. But there it was, dried and wavy, stained with coffee. I retrieved a sharp knife from the kitchen to begin the delicate surgical operation it would take to try to open it without totally mutilating its contents.

It was an invitation to be at The Teal Mango on Saturday, this Saturday, two days from now. The time was strange-5:30 in the morning, well over two hours before sunrise. There was a strange list of things to bring and I was not to tell any one. Very odd. I really like more notice, especially as odd as this all was. But, Maddie had given me more notice. It was my fault I let the mail slip. I’m the one who threw the coffee. And I was the one who forgot it in the first place. I guess I would be there!

* * *

This week was a replay of the previous week-warm again. Roses, alyssum, and Calendula do not bloom, I repeat, do not bloom here in December. Some of them are not supposed to even be alive. But they were. Friday started as beautiful as the day before with a starting temperature near the previous day’s high. This is part of the country that has four seasons, sometimes in one day, and sometimes in less than one day. By late afternoon, early evening it was going to prove that adage. The wind picked up, from one direction and then another. The temperature dropped and it dropped hard and fast.

This weather-the low fronts and sudden changes-wreaks havoc on my body. I had already gathered the items that Maddie had said to bring for tomorrow morning. I placed them near the back door ready for tomorrow morning. And I headed to bed. I needed to be up pretty darn early and I just wasn’t feeling well.

4:30 in the morning came way too early. It is so hard to leave a warm bed on a cold dark morning when all your body wants to do is sleep. It’s definitely a clue that it is way too early when even the dog doesn’t want to get up. I had to get The SSB Drever up and outside to potty before I could leave. I pushed her out of the bed, grabbed some slippers and a sweater and we headed down the stairs, to the kitchen and to the back door. I opened the inner door. I opened the screen door ready to give her a nudge out and I stopped.

I had gone to sleep in one world and awakened to another. The violent raging wind had given way to a soft, snow world of white. It appeared an Alberta Clipper had come through. My backyard had turned into a fondant covered landscape dusted with a thick layer of sugar that had fallen from an almost misty sky glowing with an apricot haze of city lights. Big flakes of wet spun sugar the size of quarters were still raining down, hushing the city saying, “Shhh, go back to sleep. It is not yet time to awake.” But the snow did not know that this weather awakens a spirit in me that embraces it.

I took care of the SSB Drever; got her her breakfast. I dressed, put on my coat and other gear and prepared to explain to Drevie that I had to go and she had to stay, ready to bribe her with a treat. But in the middle of my words, she looked at me, turned her back on me, and headed back to bed.

I went out the back door. My eyes peeking out through lashes veiled in snowflakes, I softly walked through 6 inches of snow to the garage, backed out my car and drove off into the dark silence. Driving in a snow like this, at this time of day is meditative. The rest of the city is still asleep and this peaceful snow world is all mine. I scrunched my shoulders into the warm air blowing from the vents, I listened to the sound of the wipers, their rhythm driving with me to the Heights and The Teal Mango.

I had never been there at this time of morning. The bigger light displays were turned off but the smaller lights, especially the small white twinkly ones were still on. They quietly blinked between the snowflakes. I found a place to park two block over and one block up from the “Mango”.  The houses were still mostly dark; people were still sleeping. I gathered my things from the car and was careful to close the door very quietly. I padded my way through inches of snow. Along the way, coming out of cars, coming down side streets, coming out of shadows, I saw others, walking along the same direction, carrying the same items-blankets, pillow, and slippers and thick socks.

We smiled, acknowledged each other in silence and continued.  And then, we smiled loudly, and The Teal Mango smiled back. Along the sidewalk, from each direction and on each side of the walk, up the steps on each side, and all around the porch were luminaries, rows and rows of luminaries to welcome us.

* * *

The beveled glass magically opened as we stepped onto the porch to a flickering with the soft light of candles and tiny string lights. Maddie was there to welcome us. She whispered for us to set our things on a chair and come get something to eat. I went to the east room and laid my pillow, blanket and thick wool sock boot slippers on my favorite chair there. I took off my hat and coat, put the hat into one of the sleeves and draped my coat over the back of the chair. I returned to the food counter.

Maddie knows what we each like. (We are here on a fairly regular basis.)  She had set out hot tea, hot coffee and hot chocolate. Truly it was melted Kallari chocolate. She had warmed different milks-regular, almond, hazelnut, cashew, and coconut. She had set out spices. With one arm reaching out to us, her other hand raised to her face, her finger near her mouth, she had come to each of us, and again whispered the invitation to mix our drink to our liking and also have some of the pastries and savory snacks set on platters just past the hot drinks.We moved without speaking. Everyone sensed that this was a moment for reflection and breathing in the lights in the stillness.

I set my hot chocolate-Kallari chocolate in a mixture of nut milks, coconut milk with cinnamon and a little cayenne -along with a little bit to eat on the side table next to my chair. I replaced my boots with my llama wool boot socks. I scrunched my pillow behind my neck and head, pulled my blanket around me, adjusted my pillow again. Maddie had lit a fire in the fire place. By now the fire, with only occasional whispers of darting flames of copper, gold, or blue, had settled quietly into the charcoaling logs whose glowing underbellies were as warm as mine, as I picked up my hot chocolate and melted, like my marshmallows, into the moment.

My eyes tip-toed around the room. Everyone had nestled into a chosen spot and was engaged in the silence. It wasn’t totally silent. The was a barely audible background of meditative music. Parts of it reminded me of the lulling rhythm of a distant train and its whisper. Or was it the sound of a tea kettle, the musical strains when it first begins it ascent to a boil? Or was it the ebb and flow ocean waves? Or, was it my heart and my breathing?

The lighting was minimal but strategically placed, a few strings here, a garland there, around the windows, doorways and French doors. Across from me, near the window, was a little Norfolk pine. Maddie had dressed it with light. Some of the lights were tiny cool white blinking lights. Some were a cool dark blue of twilight. And some were little textured globes, a crackled glass effect in a color between blue, aqua and teal. I snuggle a little deeper under my blanket. I watched the lights. I squinted my eyes to make halos around them, to make them multiply and dance. I felt warm and drowsy. I scrunched my pillow to the side and slowly… my eyes… closed. …

I opened my eyes to the sounds of soft foot steps and paper moving. Maddie was moving through the room with a basket, now nearly emptied of little paper and fabric crafted boxes while those who had one already was opening it, and those who hadn’t were picking one. By the time Maddie stood in front of me, there was one left, a tiny one that was a bit crumpled with a small dent on the side. It had been made with bits of grass and leaf stems in the papier mache. There was a small envelope next to it.

I didn’t open either one yet. I watched the others. As they lifted the lids, the strangest looks came over their faces-a quizzical confusion with perhaps a faint trace of disappointment. Upon reading the contents of the envelope, their expressions soften and gentle smiles rose from the corners of their lips.

I carefully opened the box. Then I opened the envelope and removed and read the note inside.

This box may appear empty, 
But it is a space filled with infinite love. 
It is filled it with love and wrapped in my love. 
Take this space and fill it with love and wrap it in your love. 
And as you go through life, 
Share it with those you meet upon your path 
Who are in need of love.


whitegray flower pmb

Maddie had gathered bits and pieces of our memories, wrapped them in warmth and love, and given them back to us. I looked back up. I looked at the faces around me. I turned and again looked at the lights. I squinted my eyes to look for halos. I thought of the blues lights from a Christmas so long ago. I thought of my brother, long since passed away. The light was changing from night to twilight, that time when night meets day, when the past and present become one. I now have another Christmas Saturday, a new one to join the old.

I leaned back and turned my head to look out the window. The dawn was beginning, it’s fingers tracing the rivulets of melting snow on the window. The rivulets from the snowflakes that had danced on my lashes and cheeks had long since dried, but my eyes were wet.

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