You’re never too old to play hooky

As my previous post might have implied, I’ve had a worse-than-usual case of cabin fever/winter doldrums due to a worse-than-usual winter. In fact, I was seriously considering finding a last-minute airfare bargain, ditching my family and leaving town for someplace warm. I mean, I was SERIOUSLY considering this. But it smacked of “running away from home” (admit it, you’ve wanted to do this at times) and seemed…well…just a wee bit…unbalanced. So, I resisted the urge and dragged myself into work, as a responsible middle-aged woman should do. This may have been the same day I texted KitKat the line that prompted her recent post, and apparently great (though rebellious) minds think alike, because I decided to do what any defiant teen would: Play hooky.

I had learned a few days earlier that my middle child—a junior in college—would be coming home for a few days over spring break and knew seeing her would lift my spirits. I decided to “seize the day” or more accurately “the next day” to spend it with my darling daughter.

Okay, here I confess that I am—at heart—an extremely conscientious person with a self-detrimental work ethic. So, I didn’t fake being sick. But since I had no pressing meetings, I scheduled a spontaneous vacation day.

I skipped out of work that evening feeling a bit lighter than I had when I dragged myself in. When my daughter arrived home, we discussed potential options for our mother-daughter outing the next day. Now, my daughter is attending college in the Fargo-Moorhead area, where fewer trees dot the landscape to offer a break from the cold and blowing snow, and the fierce Minnesota winter I complained about in my last post has been magnified. So for our Cabin Fever Play Day, we decided to seek out green plants, blooming flowers, chirping birds, tropical fish and exotic animals.

A Sea Dragon
A Sea Dragon at the Minnesota Zoo

Our first stop was the Minnesota Zoo. Since it was a school day, I think I was the only mother there with a child over the age of five. I had not been for a zoo visit myself since the kids were…what? Preteens? A long time, anyway. Several new attractions had opened since then, and we walked through all of the indoor exhibits. Kids on field trips swam by us like schools of fish, and we saw plenty of real ones in the large aquarium (fish that is, not kids).

When is lunch?
When is lunch?

After a couple of hours we had exhausted our options for indoor exhibits, but not our desire to stay in the warm, green surroundings. So, we decided to hit another zoo in town—a favorite destination of my childhood: Como Zoo, which also has a lovely conservatory.

Not a bad role model for a pope!
Not a bad role model for a pope!

First, though, we needed sustenance, so we made a detour for lunch in St. Paul. As we dined, the announcement that the new pope had been chosen was breaking news. As the major stations showed coverage of an empty balcony for an hour (seriously!) while waiting for the new pope to make his appearance, we discussed the challenges he would face and speculated on what name he would choose. I guessed John Paul III would be the choice (to build an association with the more popular of the recent popes), but my prescient daughter thought St. Francis would be the best choice, as that was her favorite saint–exemplifying peace and humility.

Afterward, we headed to the conservatory to bask in the humidity and sunshine, and when we got to the wing with all the spring flowers, I was struck by two things: 1) The explosion of color, which was almost an assault on my color-starved eyes. In the dead of winter, the Minnesota landscape is white and gray and its residents follow suit, clothing themselves in black, gray and other dark, drab colors. 2) The intoxicating fragrance. Winter has no smell. Well, actually when you live in the city it smells a lot like car exhaust. Yuck.

The sweet smell of spring
The sweet smell of spring in the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Zoo

We headed home feeling a bit more optimistic. Spring would return, we just had to wait a bit longer. I also realized that I had spent a full day with my daughter—the longest time alone together I could recall—and I genuinely enjoyed every minute of her company. Not just because she’s my daughter and I love her, but because she’s a genuinely cool person. The flowers were a lovely bonus, but I was more enchanted by the girl who had blossomed before me into a confident and compassionate young woman.

It turned out that my day of playing hooky was just what the doctor ordered. For as KitKat pointed out, one of the privileges of being a grown up is deciding when it’s okay to act like a kid.

Turn, turn, turn … that clock forward!

Winter wonderland
Winter wonderland

KitKat and I are native Minnesotans. Growing up in this state, I’ve made some interesting observations about how a dark, cold winter affects the local psyche. During the months of December/January/February, you encounter a spectrum of viewpoints about our longest season. For many of us, our attitude evolves as the season progresses:

  • December: We love the snow! Everything was so dreary in November, but now it looks so Christmas-y! A winter wonderland!
  • January: Brrrrr. It’s cold and snowy, but that’s Minnesota. Twenty below zero might be unpleasant, but just think of our forefathers having to endure it without down parkas and heated seats! Basically, we’re resigned to it. We hunker down and watch a little too much TV.
  • February: We’re over the worst of it. The days are getting longer. There’s still a lot of winter before us, but we’re hardy Minnesotans, after all. We’ll survive. (This is typically when I go to my annual conference in a warm destination, so that well-timed respite from the snow and cold usually keeps me off the ledge, so to speak.)

There are even a number Minnesotans who manage to maintain their December enthusiasm right through February. These are generally the outdoorsy types—people who take full advantage of the season for skiing, snowmobiling, ice-fishing and hockey.

However, regardless of one’s view of winter, I’ve noticed that there’s a point where everyone eventually reaches their limit. And, interestingly enough, this happens to everyone at approximately the same time. Suddenly, we’ve collectively had ENOUGH.

“Enough” arrived last week in the guise of a March snowstorm, whereupon Mother Nature (that bitch!) dropped 10 inches of the slushy white stuff on us over a period of two days. Although this was a beautiful snowfall–coating trees and houses in a tranquil blanket of white–the general consensus of coworkers and friends was, “Auuuuugggggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”

Having had a glimpse of summer during my recent trip to Florida, this sunk me into a particularly foul mood. Spring seemed distant, I’m sick to death of wearing wool skirts, cashmere sweaters and boots everyday, and I long to sit on my patio and feel the sun on my face. What’s worse, my gloomy outlook is matched by an inner malaise. Everything seems hard and I don’t have a clear sense of purpose.

Ah, spring!
Ah, spring!

The other morning, fortunately, a harbinger of spring arrived: Daylight Savings Time. The annual mandate to “Spring Ahead” always cheers me up, even if I lose an hour of my precious weekend. It provides a much-needed kick in the pants to rouse me out of my winter funk and get me thinking about the possibilities that lie dormant—much like my garden. After all, I never know which flowers are going to appear from year-to-year, but the arrangement always delights me (at least, until August when the weeds take over).

So even though I’m not feeling very sunny these days, I’m going to do my best to have faith in the spring. As we’re reminded in Ecclesiastes (or by the Byrds, if you prefer), there is a time for every purpose under Heaven. Even those that haven’t been discovered yet.