February has never been a good month.
My health has improved enough that I actually do sleep most nights and the depression is less. But it’s still dark. It’s still dreary. It’s still cold and frightening most of the time. It’s still the longest month experientially, despite being the shortest numerically.
We can drive places in the Neighborhood Trolley this year so I’m not quite so stir crazy. But then again, there’s nowhere to drive to. All the parks are knee-deep in snow and there’s nothing to do for fun. I have to walk out to the car in the snow, since we can’t park it near the house thanks to our menacing neighbor.
When there is nothing interesting to do, and when I’m anxious and depressed, I don’t know what to write.
When I don’t write, the blog clicks drop, and nobody feeds the tip jar, so our income flags. Bills pile up. We put off paying things and then we pay late fees and barely make the past due. This happens every February. This year it hurts more, because Rosie was promised that she could go back to martial arts and play soccer as soon as she was vaccinated, but we can’t afford it just now, so we wait. I thought I was just waiting to get the tax rebate, but with the child tax credit messing up the numbers and with our income being so high at the beginning of the year, we’ll actually owe about forty dollars in tax for the first time ever. There’s no escape for any of us. We’re stuck, and it’s February.
I daydream about running away from home– driving to Columbus, as I mentioned earlier. Or driving even further. Maybe all the way down to Florida where it’s warm. My eccentric grandfather, not the bird watcher but the one who was rich and not very nice, had a winter house in Florida. My grandmother used to fly down to Florida just before Thanksgiving and stay there until late March. As a little girl I wondered why anybody would do that, missing out on fluffy snow and glassy ice, sledding and snowmen and hot chocolate. Now I understand perfectly.
Their winter house was on a canal in Naples, just a few minutes’ walk from a pristine white-sand beach. My grandfather bought it when it wasn’t the fashion to buy a house in Naples, and he kept it as the neighborhood around him got more and more expensive. That house remained virtually unchanged from the sixties until it was sold and bulldozed to the ground in the early 2000s. It was a seafoam blue ranch, with coconut trees in the front yard and a bean-shaped pool in the back; there were sliding glass doors in the blond wood kitchen so you could take your breakfast outside and eat on the dock. It was quaint and tacky and endearing, just roomy enough to welcome guests but not too big. And all around it on every other lot were mcmansions: gigantic, boxy hulks, festooned with cheap foam pillars and such to make them look opulent, so large that there was on room on the property for a yard or a garden. One glossy rectangular mausoleum after another, crammed side by side like shoeboxes at a department store, and right in the middle was my grandparents’ ranch house with a front and back yard.
I only went to that house to visit them twice. They lived in Ohio near us the other seven months of the year, and Naples is three days’ drive from Columbus, so getting there was an enormous investment of time. But when I did visit, I loved it. It was the perfect winter getaway. I spent the whole trip swimming in my grandfather’s pool or swimming in the surf on that perfect beach, bringing home conch shells for souvenirs, watching pelicans dart into the water against a cherry red sunset.
If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t go see Shakespeare perform at the globe first. I wouldn’t go rescue books from the Library of Alexandria first. I wouldn’t go to see Beethoven conduct his Ninth Symphony or watch the riot at the first performance of the Rite of Spring. The very first thing I would do, before I did all of that, would be to go back to the end of the twentieth century, and take a vacation at that ranch house in Naples before it was demolished.
That’s the kind of wistful thought I bat around my head in February, when I should be thinking about something to write. I would like to go back in time to the 1990s, so I could stay in a tacky ranch house and go to the beach.
Yesterday, I did get to go swimming for the first time in months.
I shouldn’t have done that. I should have been more frugal. But I went swimming. We had been hoarding aluminum cans in the basement for a long time– Michael is fond of a Red Bull now and then, and I’ve been drinking Virgil’s Zero Sugar because it doesn’t affect my PCOS. We were rinsing the cans and storing them by the trash but never taking them to the recycling bin because the only recycling bins near us are for paper and plastic. This week was the week I realized that there’s a recycling center that takes cans across the river in dreary Weirton, and I had a car to drive them there.
We stuffed the car with cans. I took them all to the recycling center, and came out with a little bit of cash.
I used the cash to buy a ticket to the indoor pool at the community center.
It certainly isn’t the same as swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. But it’s something.
Back and forth in the lap lane, while cheerful older people did gentle calisthenics in the shallow end. Closing my eyes, darting through the water, imagining. Imagining myself at that ranch house with the dock in the back, overlooking the canal. Imagining the pelican, the sunset, the ocean lapping up to my knees, the undertow tugging at my feet. Happy and at peace on a nice vacation. And then I’d get in my time machine. And where else would I go?
To the Globe Theater?
To the Library of Alexandria?
To a concert or a ballet?
To Rivendell or Cair Paravel or Asgard, or a galaxy far, far away?
Maybe just a few weeks ahead of now, to March or April when things start to feel better.
Or maybe I’ll stay on the beach.
Image via pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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