Dreams really do come true. Keep dreaming!
On June 29, in my blog post entitled, WANTED: SEND ME YOUR WORDS, I asked for sentences and I promised to ‘weave them’ into a future blog post. To the eight of you (Juli, Jan, Diane, Allison, Ann, Hilary, Francis, and Barb) who took the time to share your sentences (in bold below) with me, my warmest thanks. I had fun brainstorming as I sifted through the words. Here is our story.
* * * * * * * * *
Everyone had assured Ruby that no matter what, they would be at the reunion weekend. When she had shared her concerns about planning something in January, with winter weather being so unpredictable, they had all laughed and reminded her they lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin. They were made of tough stuff. There was no way they’d let a little thing like weather or snow get in the way of their plans.
So after many days and many more reply-all emails, each of them tossing out all kinds of ideas and locations and then volleying them back and forth, a date was selected and a location chosen – the lake resort in the north woods. It was the perfect place. Not only was it the most centrally located of all the places they had considered, but they had warm memories of spending at least one week almost every summer of their childhoods staying in this very cluster of cabins. In fact, that was how they’d all met, one summer many years ago.
It was decided they would rent two cabins right next door to each other. That way they would be less than 20 feet from the lake and each other at all times. The plan was to hang out and eat their meals in the larger cabin of the two; but at bedtime (almost certainly in the wee hours) they would spread out among the 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Sleeping arrangements and meals were divided among the 8 of them. Everyone would bring favorite games and foods, and they agreed there would probably be enough food for an army.
Back in September when the leaves and the temperatures weren’t yet crisp, it had seemed like a great idea. Now, with a blizzard forecast to dump nearly a foot of snow in a 3-state area and freezing rain to follow, it seemed anything but.
Ruby was the planner of the group. She always had been. That was one of the reasons everyone was thrilled when she offered to make all the arrangements. It was also the reason she had decided to come a day early, to get everything set up and situated before the rest of the group arrived.
Now thinking back to how this day had started, she thought, “It was a stormy day and all I wanted was to stay in bed, but that didn’t happen.”
There had been way too much to do. Plus, she seldom allowed herself the guilty pleasure of staying in bed. Being an early riser for as long as she could remember, as soon as she woke up, she got out of bed and started her day. Today was no exception. Even though the night before, avoiding all TV, including the evening weather report, she had stayed up well past her usual bedtime putting the final touches on her packing, her baking (2 batches of chocolate chip cookies, a pan of caramel nut rolls, and a pan of brownies), and triple checking her to-do list.
But now she couldn’t help feeling disappointed. For weeks she had anticipated the laughter and the stories and the catching up. She had even jotted down notes of things she had remembered from wonderful moments they had spent together. So by this time, Memory Lane was a circular drive in her head, with several well-defined grooves worn into it.
The first phone call came just as Ruby had pulled out of her driveway. The caller, living the farthest away quickly relayed that an ice storm had knocked down power lines, and just as she was telling her husband she would be going anyway, she said, “With a loud ‘pop,’ all the lights in my house went out.”
They hadn’t had power since the night before and they couldn’t leave their subdivision with the power lines still down. Ruby almost immediately started getting caught up in disappointment and her own thoughts, thinking through the change in sleeping arrangements. As she was trying to figure out how this would impact the meals and the food items everyone was scheduled to bring, she realized the conversation was still going and she had missed some of it. All she made out were the last words of the story, “…and that’s when I realized that I probably shouldn’t have used the microwave.”
No sooner had they hung up when Ruby got a text. The text explained that all three kids had fevers and it looked like it might be strep. Regretfully the mom of three would not be able to make the weekend. Two down. Ruby was still confident the other five would make it.
It was when she was less than two hours from the resort, when Ruby stopped at a gas station just off of the interstate to fill up and stretch her legs that gorgeous feathery quarter-size snowflakes began to fall. As she continued driving, she noticed substantially more snow on the ground the further north she traveled.
It was late afternoon when she pulled into the resort that the second text came. She read the words explaining car trouble and a husband fearful of the forecast. Three down. Her tough stuff friends were dropping like flies. She hoped the other four would make it.
As Ruby approached the resort’s caretaker cabin, thinking of the forecasted storm and all the changes in plans and how often life seemed to turn itself upside down from her expectations, she was surprised by the dark house and thought to herself, “There is a reason crescendo is my very favorite word.”
She paused as she reached the doorway, and tentatively stepped through it into the gloom beyond. Or so it seemed. The caretaker’s cabin was completely dark and quiet. As her eyes transitioned to the unlit cabin, she scanned the entry way and went into the office. No one was there. She saw a somewhat worn and reused white envelope hanging off the corner of the desk with her name written on it. The bold black Sharpie letters dwarfed the original mailing label. It looked like someone had cleared a space just large enough to frame the envelope with wooden desk on three sides. The desk surface was practically buried under dozens of binders, interspersed books, and assorted colored folders. Also stacked around the desk were piles of mail; some of it opened, some not.
Resisting the urge to clean up, she picked up the envelope and the sound of metal keys jingled quietly as they slid to the corner. Clipped to the envelope was a phone message cryptically written in what appeared to be the caretaker’s masculine scrawl. She was able to piece together the message that her friends from Duluth were buried under the blizzard and their dog sitter had cancelled on them, leaving them so sorry and with no choice. They would be staying home with their three dogs. The words ‘staying home’ almost seemed to stand out from the rest of the words. Ruby felt like crying.
She said out loud to no one but herself, “That’s a great idea. Now, why didn’t I think of that?”
She really was beginning to wonder why she hadn’t. Had she been foolish? It was too late now. She was there and just too tired to think about doing anything but heading to the cabins and getting unpacked. She reasoned that her trip had been relatively smooth somehow bypassing bad weather conditions most of the way. If it hadn’t been, she might not have been able to make it either.
Already feeling the drop in temperature when Ruby unlocked the main cabin, she was pleased to find it immaculate with the fresh outdoors smell she instantly remembered. Although winter always had a different smell than summer, now she also caught a hint of lemon polish and a woodsy smell too. She noticed a large stash of firewood and kindling neatly stacked next to the fireplace.
As she walked through the cabin getting reacquainted with the layout, there were fresh sheets neatly folded on each of the beds and plenty of clean towels in the linen closet too. The smell of lavender lingered in the hallway for several moments after she had closed the door. And then it resurfaced again each time she walked past the closet with her assorted things from the car, warming her senses and calming her nerves.
After her final arms-loaded trip from the car, she removed her now snowy boots for the final time and set them on the rug by the door. Her coat and scarf were hung on two of the dozen or so sturdy metal moose head hooks that lined the cabin wall.
She had stopped at the store in town to get a few food items, eggs, milk, butter, and bread. These were in addition to the groceries she had agreed to bring from home. So she unpacked the groceries along with her containers of baked goods, and her trusty jug kettle for boiling water. Almost instinctively she filled it with water, pressing down the lighted lever after placing it on the counter.
When Ruby was finally finished unpacking and putting everything away, as the juggle kettle signaled the water had reached it boiling point, she carried her two cloth bags that held her journals and sketch books and assorted markers to the couch that faced the large picture window overlooking the lake. In summer it was always the perfect spot to catch the sun setting on the lake or to watch all the activity that generally surrounded this place. It was always a thrill to see an occasional loon on the water or see a bald eagle in flight returning to its nest somewhere nearby. But now the summer blue sky was only a memory as the almost non-colored greyish sky was quickly turning itself to slate grey night, and there was only a hint of where the lake might be. The snow had continued to fall, heavier and heavier by the minute. As she took in the view of the woods looking in the direction of the lake, she realized with a heavy heart that not only could she barely make out the cabin next door, she was fairly certain no one else would be coming.
Grateful for the caretaker’s thoughtfulness in supplying the cabin with an abundance of dry logs and kindling for the weekend, Ruby put her girl scout skills to work in building a picture perfect fire in the fireplace. Almost immediately it started to take away the chill in the room. Once she was sure it was going strong, she went into the kitchen and made some hot cocoa, adding a touch of milk to cool it down. On her way to the couch, carefully carrying her mug of warm happiness, she grabbed a napkin full of her favorite chocolate chip cookies. She could think of worse dinners.
As the regrets had been called or texted in, she had promised her friends she would share every single moment of the weekend. One of them had even added the reminder that there was to be no laughing or having fun without her. She hadn’t shared that so many of the others weren’t coming. She hadn’t wanted to make anyone feel any worse than they already did.
After getting herself and her ‘dinner’ and her journal supplies all situated, Ruby leaned her head back into the soft cushion of the couch and let out a sigh. She felt relief in being at her destination and liked the feeling of being unpacked and settled in. She was determined that whatever the weekend entailed, she would make the best of it.
As she began to take a bite out of the last cookie from the napkin bundle, she was startled to realize she had finished almost the entire handful of cookies without having even noticed their buttery taste or semi-sweet chocolate goodness…that is until now. She vowed to slow down and immediately made a mental note to bring a plate of them to the caretaker’s cabin in the morning.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, she hummed the theme song from Annie, as she said a silent prayer that the sun really would come up tomorrow, tomorrow. Then she picked up her Moleskine journal leisurely turning the pages until she found the page for today, empty except for the factory-printed date. In her distinctive handwriting, she wrote the first words that came to her mind, “Wrapped in a blanket and oversized sweater, sitting next to the crackling fire, I sipped sweet cocoa.”
Before her pen started filling the lines with the next sentence, her mind gave voice to the now somewhat alarming thought that she was all alone in the woods. She’d been too busy to think of it before now. In true crescendo timing, her cell phone starting chirping and there was a knock at the door. She was no longer alone.